The Sponge on My Shelf

My daughter was in my office recently and picked up one of my knick-knacks. (If you have ever been in my office, there are LOTS of knick-knacks…but I digress) She has seen it before and it always intrigues her. You see, what she picked up is a sponge. No, not one of those prissy things you get at some frilly-froo-froo store in the mall. It is a real sponge. Here’s a picture of it –

Sponge

So anyway, she always asks – “Daddy is this a real sponge?” You see, she has my inquisitive gene – always investigating the small things she encounters. And she also is very interested in science – be that a seashell or the constellations above our heads. And so, she is drawn to this odd looking sponge that sits among commentaries by Luther and Calvin and photos and…well, you get the idea, my office is a hodgepodge of trinkets and memorabilia.

And I always give her the same answer – “Yes, sweetlove, it is a real sponge.”

But you may want to know the backstory behind this sponge. I’ve told it to her before and so, I’ll share it with you today.

I was presented this sponge back in September 2001. Not only was that month momentous in the life of our nation, but it was very meaningful in our lives as a family. Misty was expecting Lana (our aforementioned daughter) and I had been asked to serve as a deacon in the church where we were members. I had been a bi-vocational Music Minister for years, but from 2000-2002, I was not serving on staff at a church in any capacity. We had joined a church and became very active of course. So I was asked to serve as a deacon for the first time in my life. In preparation for my ordination, I sat down with the Pastor. And it was in that meeting that he gave me the sponge. It was to be the symbol of my ministry as a deacon. It was to remind me of the calling to be a servant. In fact, the word “deacon” comes from the Greek, διάκονος (diakonos), which means “to be a servant, domestic, to serve or wait upon.”

Obviously deacons aren’t the only ones in the church who are called to serve. The purpose of my pastor giving me the sponge was to remind me that as a deacon, I was agreeing to a specific type of service within the Body. We are all called to serve selflessly. Jesus exemplified this type of service when He took upon Himself the task of washing the disciples’ feet in John 13. Here Jesus talks of being a servant in verse 16, and the word He used is very similar to diakonos, it is δοῦλος (doulos), which means “a slave, bondman, man of servile condition, a servant or attendant.” He tells us that if He humbled Himself to serve, then we as His disciples should have no problem serving that way. We are all called to serve. But what does being a servant look like?

In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster states, “Service is not a list of things that we do, though in it we discover things to do. It is not a code of ethics, but a way of living. It is one thing to act like a servant; it is quite another to be a servant.” Foster also invites us to ask ourselves – “What does service look like in my daily life?” and goes on to offer 8 broad categories of servanthood:

Foster suggests the following acts of services that we you can make a part of our daily lifestyle.

• The service of hiddenness-doing that which remains unknown to others. Doing something for someone anonymously and for only their benefit, since we won’t ever be acknowledged for it.

• The service of small things-simple assistance of another in what we identify as external matters. Small things often make the biggest impact.

• The service of guarding the reputation of others-promoting love, protecting words (Titus 3:2).

• The service of allowing others to serve us- It is an act of submission and service to let others serve us (note Peter and Jesus discussion in John 13 about being washed). This is oftentimes very hard for those who would rather be serving than to be served.

• The service of common courtesy toward one another – The service of ungrudging hospitality (1 Peter 4:9). There is a desperate need today for Christians who will open their homes to one another. This can also be as simple as opening a door or giving someone else preferential treatment over my own self.

• The service of listening intently to another – “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. The most important requirements are compassion and patience. We do not have to have the correct answers to listen well. In fact, often the correct answers are a hindrance to listening, for we become more anxious to give the answer than to hear.” -Foster

• The service of bearing each other’s burden (Galatians 6:2). – True service builds community. It draws, binds, builds and heals. Praying for and being with each other during tough times.

• The service of bringing a word from God to another – Speaking truth in love to those around you. (Ephesians 4:15) Encouraging someone with a verse of Scripture, either spoken or written.

I want to encourage you to take a look at these types of service and seek for ways to incorporate them into your daily life. Being a servant isn’t just something we do. It is who we are – It is who we are called to be. And the next time you see a sponge, think of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.

And the next time you come by my office, I’ll show you my daily reminder that I’m called to be a servant – the sponge on my shelf.

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