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Serving the City

Serving the City

Serving the City

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. ~ Jeremiah 29:7

by Rev. Randy Knighten on March 21, 2023

Serving the City

My alarm went off at 6:00 am on Saturday morning. I followed through with my usual morning routine which included making a pot of coffee. I really needed coffee because this would be the day that a group of members from Saint John’s would serve side-by-side beyond the sanctuary and in the city. On this Saturday we had the opportunity to participate in the long-awaited Habitat for Humanity Methodist Build day. It was an opportunity to have a small impact on the issue of affordable housing in the city of Austin. It is moments like this that help me to remember our call as the people of God to be actively involved in caring for the well-being of our cities. This is exactly what Jeremiah is encouraging the Hebrew people to remember.

Rev. Dr. Monica Melanchthon of the University of Divinity in Australia, has this to say about our text from Jeremiah:

“Jeremiah encourages the Hebrew exiles to begin establishing roots and work towards building a possible life in community, a ‘home away from home’—in a distant place. For the time being, they needed to accept that the places where they were settled within Babylon were home; they needed to stop living out of their suitcases, begin establishing roots, affirm, maintain, and continue ties of family, and work towards peace and community building in their own neighborhoods. For Jeremiah, the key to survival and hope lay in joining God in the “creation of a just and compassionate counterculture, a place of new shapes and social alternatives where violence, exploitation, and idolatry do not reign.”

I believe that caring for the welfare of others is at the heart of what Habitat for Humanity does and opportunities to participate in Habitat Builds are some of my favorite moments in ministry. At its core, the word “ministry” is simply our service to others as the people of God. In the New Testament, the word "service" in Greek is often translated as diakonia. The World Council of Churches (WCC) does continual research on this term and its place in the Church. They define diakonia as “the responsible service of the gospel by deeds and by words performed by Christians in response to the needs of people.”

This wording indicates various components in the understanding of diakonia:
1. It is action, by using deeds and words.
2. Christian faith motivates this action and views it as an expression of Christian discipleship.
3. These acts reflect social reality and seek in their performance to alleviate human suffering, promote justice, peace, and human dignity

In the text "Called To Transformation" by the WCC we find these words:

"Diakonia as the church’s ministry of sharing, healing, and reconciliation is of the very nature of the Church. It demands of individuals and churches a giving, which comes not out of what they have, but what they are. Diakonia constantly has to challenge the frozen, static structures of the Church and transform them into living instruments of the sharing, healing ministry of the Church."

There are many ways of participating in the ministry of sharing, healing, and reconciliation beyond the sanctuary. As we continue in this season of Lent how might God be calling you to participate in the work of caring for the wellbeing of those beyond our local church?

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