Rule of Life: sent to serve…

Called to pray, read and learn. Sent to tell, serve and give.

Above the doorbell in the porch here at Bishop’s Lodge is a tile, with words from Adrienne von Speyr.  It reads “Holiness in the Church is always service”. I wanted these words to greet visitors to this house, and to nudge me each time I came home myself.

“Holiness in the Church is always service”. The inner journey and the outer journey are closely linked and are often indistinguishable. We are called and sent to serve the world God loves, and in particular to serve those who for whatever reason are on the edge of things. And so I hope that each individual disciple in the Diocese of Liverpool, and each one of our parishes, schools, fresh expressions and chaplaincies, will have a clear sense of what it is that they are doing, and can do, to act as servants.

I write this in the week of our deacons’ ordinations. Fourteen women and men will be ordained on Sunday, and in the Cathedral, I shall speak the words of the ordination service and say among other things: “In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.” And I’ll point the congregation to the example of our Lord Jesus, “…as he washed the feet of his disciples, so they must wash the feet of others.”

Jesus was not falsely modest; he knew himself as God’s beloved child, and he knew the love of his Father as an infinite reality. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’” he said to his disciples, “and you speak correctly, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.” And he went on, “I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.”(John 13:13-17)

“You will be happy if you do them.” Serving the world God loves can be done in millions of ways, some tiny and fleeting and others involving the offering of your whole life. As with every aspect of our Rule of Life, I do not want to prescribe or limit what our 60,000 disciples can do.

So I simply ask each disciple to “do ten things” in this coming year as acts of service. Ten things? What things? Well, that depends entirely on where God has put you. Just a few examples, then – and none of them may apply to you. So one of these things may be a regular commitment to visit and help a housebound neighbour, or to telephone a lonely friend, or to join a political party and advocate for the kingdom’s values, or to volunteer at your local foodbank or debt advice centre. You will know what you can do, and what the world needs from you.

In the coming months, as with every aspect of our Rule of Life, we’ll be offering resources and suggestions to help you in your service – to help you in your mission to see more justice in the world. But for now it’s enough to take stock of what you’re already doing, and perhaps to add one or two more. Why not talk to others in your community about what might help most?

Do ten things. There will be no penalty if you do eleven! But since holiness in the Church is always service, as disciples in the Diocese of Liverpool our commitment to draw close to the Lord Jesus must issue in action; so do ten things, as you are sent to serve.