[Jesus] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself… Philippines 2:7, 8 (KJV)
Aidan, the beloved saint who founded Lindisfarne* in the 7th Century, was known to live and instruct his monks in the way of service. The devout community who lived together divided their time between prayers, study, work, and loving action for others. Aidan “learned to travel lightly, knowing that the less you had the less you need fear being robbed. The more you carried about with you the more anxious and burdened you became.”
Aidan taught his monks to walk among the people, not to ride on horseback where they would be far above them and unable to talk with them. Once the king hand-picked a beautiful horse and equipped it with jewel-studded saddle and tack and presented it to Aidan. With a heavy heart, but grateful for the king’s generosity, Aidan left the palace. He became anxious about robbers, about protecting his valuable new possessions, and about being so high above his people. Soon he saw a beggar standing by the roadside and thought of giving him the valuable saddle, and then it occurred to him that the man would be unable to carry it. Immediately, he resolved his dilemma by getting off the horse and handing it over along with saddle and tack, telling the beggar where it could be sold for a good price.
Occasionally, we hear of contemporaries who have given themselves in service for others. Think of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, whom we now know as Mother Theresa, a young woman from an affluent family who gave her life to serve lepers, disabled, the blind, and the aged. What about Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, who was discovered early one morning polishing all the shoes that had been left in the hall by the Korean staff? And there’s Elisabeth Elliott, missionary, whose husband Jim was killed by the Auca Indians – she went back to lead them to Jesus. On and on we could go, listing those who have chosen to give more than possessions; they have given themselves to serve our Lord by serving others.
It is easy to talk and read of service, but the doing requires an inner letting go of pride, of place, of possession, of time, and of self. Where do we begin? Or how do we continue?
Father, as people of the Cross, make us doers as well as hearers of your word. Show us now the door that opens to us in service. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
*Lindisfarne Island (Holy Island) is off the northeast coast of England.