One of my favourite hymns is The Servant Song. It’s categorised in my church’s hymnal as a song of Church/Fellowship/Mission. The lyrics are simple, crisp, clear and sincere. There’s such love in the words, such humility, such a spirit of companionship. And, to build church, this is what we need, right? We need love, compassion, humility and a willingness to serve – to extend oneself for the other.
The church-building is one founded on love. The church-building is one founded on humility. The church-building is one founded on service. Jesus, the Way, said it perfectly, ‘[…] the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ (Matthew 20:28, NRSV). If I believe that He is the Way, then, accepting that ‘the disciple is not above the teacher’ (Luke 10:24, NRSV), I must humble myself to the service of my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is this way that the church is built.
How does this principle relate to HEWing? In every sense of the term. Our human effectiveness is maximised when we decrease so that the Christ in us may increase by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, it is no longer our will, but that of the Father to which we submit ourselves. In this submission, we humble ourselves, we love ourselves, and our neighbour as ourselves; when we humble ourselves, we can offer ourselves in service to our neighbour. When we offer ourselves in service to our neighbour, we can serve our neighbour as we journey with them in whatever capacity we are called to. I might be here to lead you out of something, as was Moses called to lead the Israelites out of captivity; I might be called to enlighten as was Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians. You might be called to beg mercy for me as the gardener did when the man threatened to cut down the fig tree because it hadn’t borne any fruit for three years.
As sung in the second stanza of the hymn to which I’ve referred, together ‘we are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.’ Together we suffer, together we rejoice, together we aspire and together we achieve (the last two of which are the motto of my twin-island republic of Trinidad & Tobago).
Every time I submit myself in service to my neighbour, I move one step closer to attaining my purpose. My purpose, your purpose cannot be achieved if we work independently. You see, we are meant to work in concert, to work in harmony with each other. We are meant to be of the same mind, which does not mean to be in total agreement, but rather, to work together for the church-building. This must be our goal. Understand here that when I say ‘church-building’ I do not refer to a denomination, but rather to the entire body of Christ, wherever that part of the body may be.
Friends, the season of Lent has given us a good opportunity for introspection, for preparation, for moving from selfish pursuit and vain ambition to selfless pursuit. May we not lose the opportunity. In this way, we sing to God in heaven, and so, shall find such harmony. The season of Lent presents us with a beautiful opportunity to allow God to perfect His work in our hearts so that, individually and collectively, we might be built (hewed) into the church we are meant to be.
In closing, I share with you the words of the opening and closing verses of the hymn:
Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.