Cruise ships and Churches

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Mk. 10:43-45 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave [servant] of all.  45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (ESV)

This past summer I was blessed with a “mini-sabbatical”.  The vestry (the governing body) had agreed to allow me to take an extra three weeks in addition to the four week I planned to take this year.  Over the past eleven years at St. Elizabeth’s I have not taken more than two weeks at a time and have not ever taken the full four weeks of my vacation.  This year was different.  Not only did I take four weeks in a row but the additional three weeks the vestry blessed me by allowing me to take a nine day Baltic cruise with Tillie, spend time in a silent retreat, and visit my sister in San Diego.

While all three sections of the sabbatical time away were different and refreshing, the one section of my time away, taking a nine-day Baltic cruise, made me think about what it means to serve.  These thoughts began from the time we arrived at the ship until the time we disembarked.  Since this was my very first cruise I did not know what to expect.  I had heard testimonies about what happens on a cruise however it was not until now that I started to see what really happens.

As we boarded the cruise ship I was impressed with the quality of service, the precision of the registration, the friendliness, and the attention to making our time on the cruise one of the most pleasant experiences I had encountered in a long time.  The crew took our baggage to our cabin, welcomed us by name, and extended the most gracious hospitality.  Those who served in the various departments and restaurants always greeted you with a smile and were willing to assist.  It was not long into the cruise when we went go to certain areas or dining areas that we were greeted by name.  What I enjoyed too was learning about whom they were, where they came from, and even a little about their families and why they work on a cruise ship.  I learned about what they did in their off shift hours and the types of shifts they worked, full or split shifts.

Another thing I also observed were people who just wanted to be served by the staff and servers.  There was little to interaction with the crew, the staff, and servers.  Many were surrounded by their friends or family and their focus was on themselves with little interaction other than asking for something they needed or wanted.

In some ways churches can be like a cruise ships.  The church has many different ministries within it.  There is the governing body (the vestry), there is the altar guild which prepares the church for Sunday and other services.  There is maintenance and grounds crews, those who do crafts to minister to the homeless and the ill.  There are ushers and greeters who are the first people that are seen when someone comes to a service.  There is the office staff, Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, choir leaders and members, musicians, and numerous others who volunteer their time.  These are the ones who serve as Jesus served us.  And like some on the cruise ship we find those who come only to be served.

Jesus told His disciples that He came to serve and not to be served. One might ponder why Jesus said this when He is God’s Son.  Why would He say this when He could have been served rather than Him being the one who served.  For many today it is quite the opposite because they want to be served rather than serving.  What Jesus shows us through serving is God’s great love for us and for others.  Jesus came to do the will of God and redeem us so we could be reconciled to God and be in a restored relationship with Him.  What Jesus did was show us how we too can reach out and minister to others through serving.

As disciples we learn to serve, to place others above our own need.  Jesus is the true master and shows us through His serving how to serve.  In our daily walk with Him we continue to learn and grow as His disciple through scripture, teachings, and action.  In John 13:16 Jesus told His disciples “ 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”

My experience on the cruise ship was one I will never forget.  I will be praying for all whom I met and who shared their experiences with me.  I look forward to going on more cruises not to be served but to serve others through fellowship, prayers and sharing the love of Jesus with them.

We all have gifts and talents we can use to serve God in His kingdom on earth.  How is God calling you to use your gifts to serve to serve others in His church.