Sermon: Servanthood in Diversity

July 22, 2018
Ordinary Time/Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Genesis 1:24-28; Mark 10:42-45
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Servanthood in Diversity

Cross-cultural/cross-racial ministry
One of the beauties that I can say about our communities is “diversity.” It’s not only diversity with many different ethnic groups but also diversity with wild animals. But my first impression of diversity here came from the invitation to Richard’s graduation party. There I saw little kids, young adults, early twenties and thirties, and some adults and some old folks. Regardless of age, or racial, or social differences, we all just had a wonderful time. For that, Richard in the midst of the whole crowd was so busy hosting the party all day long and making everybody connected to each other, feeling comfortable and enjoying the party all together.

The worship and ministry we are doing together is called “cross-cultural/cross-racial ministry.” I cross over the bridge to serve you and you also cross over the bridge to welcome me and work with me in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. The most important task of this ministry is how to keep or manage peace and harmony among us.

When I was in Vermont, I was only one (as an Asian man) in my white community. Truly, I am now feeling much more comfortable here in CT because I am just one of a lot. But I can tell my rural ministry brought me a wonderful lesson about diversity, not from people (because they are all white folks) but from the green mountains in Vermont. Let me share my previous experience in Vermont, based on my sermon theme, “diversity and harmony.”

Diversity in Vermont
When I said, “I came from Boston,” some of the parishioners questioned me back, “Why?” That question of why sounded like “What’s wrong?” Well, I understand why people wondered about my moving to Vermont. It’s such a radical change, isn’t it?

Since I was born in the world, I had been always a city boy who knows about a traffic jam, a nasty smell and a loud noisy from the streets. But all of a sudden, I had to learn how to deal with black flies and bugs, how to get along with a lot of trees everywhere, how to survive a winter, and how to drive down on country roads during the winter season. Of course, I had enjoyed hiking, going fishing, and kayaking on the lake.

One of my joys in that small country was to see animals. Before I moved there, the animals I was familiar with were only dogs and cats. But after I moved there, I could see lots of wild animals and domestic animals like chickens, cows, goats, horses, and so forth. Most people in my congregation had those animals just for pleasure or pastime after their retirements. But it’s still a lot of work to feed and take care of animals.

When I visited an old couple from my congregation, I saw their two goats and four chickens in their little farm. The wife introduced her goats as her babies. I was little nervous and even scared when I got close to them. Who knows if they would attack me because I was a stranger to them? But unlike my worry, they were very friendly to me. A while later, she gave me a little bowl that had corn kernels. When I put those corn on my palm, the goats came to me right away and licked my palm to eat the corn. It was my first time touching goats, and I was feeling great! “Wow, people and animals live together like a family here in Vermont!” That was my impression after I looked around their farm.

Diversity in God’s creation
What made me most marvel at in Vermont was the glory of God’s creation in the earth, sky, mountain and lake, and soon I came to humble myself by the reality that God cares for all creatures so insignificant as humankind. When I got to the top of Elmore mountain, I just spoke to myself with delight, “It is good.” (I never forget my shock to see the fresh greenness all over the land.) “Indeed, it was very good” (vv. 21, 25), this is what God proclaimed when God created all things in the beginning. God also blessed each of them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (vv. 22, 24). This passage teaches us that it is God’s will for all the creatures to thrive on earth.

Yet I believe there is some other deeper reason why God said his creation was good. I believe it’s about harmony. Although they were many and all different, all of the living creatures were not in competition or conflict but in harmony and peace. God created all creatures in huge swarms, in great diversity, and in perfect harmony with one another. Harmony in diversity is the beauty of God’s creation!

Living in peace and harmony must be the question we have to take seriously as we live in very diverse communities. How do we like to see other races? How can we communicate with other cultures? How can we live together and get along with them in our diverse world? For those questions, I got the answer from the parishioners’ farm. That is “feeding.” They fed their animals and they got along together and their farm was full of peace and harmony. In terms of our Christian ministry, it’s service that brings us fellowship and reconciliation.

Dominion as stewardship
Now I want to address human creatures. The good news is that God created humans in the image of God. God was even pleased to give us a special authority – to exercise dominion over other creatures, so we are like a God to them; “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’” (v. 28). Thus, it seems like humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation, right?

Yes, we have dominion over all kinds of animals in the world. That’s why we can have pets for pleasure. That’s why we can have cattle farming as a business. But when we have pets, don’t we know we are also responsible for them? At least, we have to feed them every day; we have to give them some shots and sometimes bring them to animal hospitals; we also have to walk our dogs in order to help them stay healthy. Many people even consider their pets as their own children. When we have pets or cattle, we are responsible for serving their needs.

Now I want to talk about Noah’s Ark. Noah was a special man that God entrusted creatures to him, so he had dominion over all the animals that joined his Ark. So what did he do to the animals with his dominating power? He had to feed them, remove their wastes, and make sure all the companions got along with each other in the Ark. This Savior Noah had to work hard as a servant to all of the creatures.

If we understand the definition of dominion in Genesis as stewardship or servanthood, we are to delight in other creatures, as God does, and to take responsibility for them. (think about Jesus who is the eternal Lord buts lived as a servant to all). Jesus our Lord says in today’s Gospel lesson, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (v. 43-45).

Probably our communities and our world are like Noah’s Ark and as we have the Gospel from Jesus Christ, we are like Noah to whom God entrusts all things. How can we preach the Gospel to all the creatures; how can we restore God’s creation back to peace and harmony with each other? If we understand our Christian vocation as stewardship or service, we see others as our companions in our journey; we can welcome all human races as our brothers and sisters in God. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, but it matters to us how to let all people come together, reconcile with each other, and live and thrive together in peace and harmony. Servanthood is the way we bring God’s kingdom on earth.

The GOM’s service and fellowship
We have some very dedicated men serving our church through their works.  The Grumpy Old Men (GOM’s) meet every Wednesday morning to provide maintenance work on our church building and grounds.  Their (often unseen) actions keep our church in good condition and support our church events and services.  The men break for coffee, doughnuts, and fellowship about half-way through the morning. Friendships are formed and strengthened among these men over a cup of coffee.

What’s the secret of our coexistence with others in our diverse communities? In our GOM’s dedication and service, I saw the greatest serve the least; I saw the image of God and the image of Jesus the Shepherd who feeds his flock and cares for all creation. In your serving hands to others, I saw God’s redemption and reconciliation with all of creation. Amen.