People tend to have a reason for doing what they do – especially when they do it over and over again. We have reasons for waking up to go to work, for not skipping class, and for cooking dinner after a long day. A lot of the things we do are because they are necessary: such as cooking dinner so that you can eat, or going to work to pay the bills. But some of our reasons are bigger than us – sometimes our “reason why” is in response to things which drive us because we see a greater purpose in that thing than in any other.
I once heard a story that goes something like this:
About 800 years ago, a man was journeying through Europe. As he was entering a town, he came upon a large construction site where he saw three labourers cutting, moving, and placing large stones. Intrigued, he went to the first man and asked him what he was doing. The man gruffly replied, “I’m cutting stones.” Realising the stonecutter didn’t want to converse with him, the traveler turned to the second man and repeated the question. The man answered, “I heard there was some work in the area as a bricklayer – we’re building a wall or something. Once I make enough money, though, I’m going to leave and move on to something else.” The traveler thanked him and wished him well, then turned to the third man. Again he asked what the man was doing. The man paused for a moment and shot a glance toward the sky before turning to look at the traveler. With a glimmer in his eye and a smile across his face, the man replied, “I’m building a cathedral.”
It takes a lot for someone to willingly wake up early to arrive at church by 7 am to setup (especially when you take the bus – the bus schedule on Sunday morning is awful). Honestly, it doesn’t feel like a glamorous job to set up a stage, lay cables, conduct a sound check, put up signs, get the TVs working, troubleshoot the projector… but serving isn’t meant to be glamorous.
I serve him because his love has completely transformed my life, and it has brought up within me a desire that others might come to know this life-changing, joy-producing love.
I have to confess that there are times when I want credit for what I do – for waking up early, for helping things run smoothly, and sacrificing my comforts and pleasures (read: sleep) for the betterment of others. I admit that I can be prideful about it. But God has shown me over the years that serving is never meant to be about me because it’s actually about him. When we get caught up in the costs and sacrifices we make, whether when we serve or when we give, in looking and focusing on our sacrifice and our effort we place our actions above the one to whom we offer them: to make much of our sacrifice is to make little of its recipient.
But who is the recipient of my early morning labour? Who benefits?
Well, I suppose the other volunteers and the rest of the staff can benefit from when I serve – it means that there are fewer things they need to do, after all, many hands make light labour. It’s also true that the church as a whole benefits – in waking up early to set up, I help foster an environment in which the congregation can meet with God – where they can worship God. Yet the church is not the ultimate recipient of my service.
When I serve at church, I serve Jesus. I serve him who saved me, who rescued me, and who has given me immeasurably more than I can even begin to comprehend and understand. In serving on the weekends, I seek to offer up my life to God – to offer up myself as a living sacrifice – and I pray that God would use it for his purposes, that he might be glorified. I don’t serve to gain the approval of others (although sometimes I am tempted to seek it). I don’t serve to gain God’s approval, or to prove myself worthy of my salvation – I couldn’t possibly begin to earn the grace he has freely given me.
No: I serve, and sacrifice my wants and comforts because the God of the universe saw fit to humble himself, be born into this world as a human, and die on a cross to save and rescue me. I serve him on the weekends because his love has completely transformed my life, and it has brought up within me a desire that others might come to know this life-changing, joy-producing love.
I don’t cut stones or lay bricks on Sundays, instead I carry subwoofers and run cables. I set up instruments and help arrange tables. On Sundays, I rise before dawn and help build a church. It’s a labour of love and sweat and troubleshooting. It’s a labour of head-scratching and cable plugging and heavy-lifting. Together we build and assemble a church. In the basement of downtown Vancouver, we prepare a space where the people of God can come and enter into his presence. We transform the nuclear bunker lecture hall at UBC Robson Square into a house of worship, building a church each Sunday morning.