“Whoever would be first among you, let him be your servant.” (Matt. 20:27)
As the great fountain of beneficence, we see God with lavish hand pouring forth bounty and blessing upon His creatures and children, ruling the universe with the divine principle of service. As a loving Father, He seeks His children, ever ready to bless. We learn to love Him because He first loves us, as forever our best Friend.
By this principle Jesus rises to the throne of a true lordship, becomes leader and prince in the realm of religion, his church supreme and enduring amid the religions of the world. In darker days, worshiped as Deity, far away and above human experience, the example of Jesus was lost from sight, his mission deemed a sacrifice to pay the penalty of human guilt.
Later days begin to see him more truly as the Gospels portray him, loving Friend and Helper. Because by life and word he served humanity, he is lovingly enshrined in millions of hearts. Our practical world and time are fast coming to care little for dogmatic opinions and dead debates of his nature. That Jesus brings a power of blessing for today welcomes and enthrones him in high place as divine example and best spiritual leader.
Walking in his footsteps and cherishing his spirit, our lives become unselfish and helpful with a loving service that renders the humblest Christ-like and God-like.
All legitimate business is a mutual service, with both parties benefited. As commerce runs its lines around the globe, civilization is tending to bind into one brotherhood the whole human family, fulfilling the sentiment of the fine Swiss motto, "Each for all, and all for each."
Everywhere and forever genuine service is the supreme secret of true success. Whatever best serves human need will win the glad homage of the human heart, will go to the front, will conquer and command. This is true alike for persons and peoples, nations and churches.
June days of every year are sending forth from academies, seminaries, and colleges a great host of young men and women, graduated to start upon their life career. As they enter upon the busy arena of practical affairs, comes to each the sharp summons: Do some good work or get out of the way!
By this ruling life principle, each speedily becomes weighed and measured, tested and judged. Does one ask supremely for some soft place of easiest work and largest pay, to settle down in selfish indulgence, ignoble comfort and content? He is speedily ignored and forgotten.
Whomever asks supremely for the greatest opportunity, open field for best work for which their ability is adequate, nobly consecrates themselves, unselfishly does their best, doors speedily open to them. Higher opportunities seek them. People love and honor them. Living or dying, they go in, on, and up to heights of usefulness and renown.
The law of service applies equally to institutions. It is true of the Church.
Soon after the death of Jesus and his apostles, the pure, simple, practical gospel they preached became obscured by heathen traditions that still linger in popular theology. The flowing stream has gathered sediment.
We seek to filter it, and get the pure, living water, to restore and apply to life the original gospel preached by Jesus.
We seek to welcome and keep pace with advancing intelligence. It offers no mystical or miraculous plan of salvation, but by practical righteousness would turn the wilderness into a garden.
But the better day among us is dawning, the missionary spirit awakening, and pushing its way into every open door of opportunity for service. Primarily we come hither for worship, for inspiration and guidance, for friendly fellowship, for comfort in sorrow and good cheer in daily living.
The church’s larger purpose is not only for worship, but for work; not only to get good, but to do good. While old dogmas and forms are passing away, the ideal church of the future we hope here to realize.
The true church is not a concert or lecture hall of luxurious surroundings, with an audience of passive hearers to be entertained with sweet music and eloquent preaching.
It is a congregation, a coming together, a union of souls joining hearts and hands for good work. The true church is not an aristocratic club, composed of a few select, superior saints, but, as in Galilee, a company of the common people who heard Jesus gladly.
We here today start afresh to work for and realize the ideal coming church. Every blessing to our own souls we would send out as blessing to others in life's sore struggle. Personal consecration crowned by zealous purpose to bless the world would make ours the church of the helping hand. Only by practical service can we hope to win.
Without this, the Master does not need us, and the world has no place for us. The logic of events issues the edict, "Do some good work, or better close the doors and disband."
Only as practically we serve this community can our church live or hope to win success.
(Adapted from a 1910 sermon by Rev. Russ R. Shippen)