The Sheep Pen Confession: 3

This is part three in something of a mission statement.  I use that term cautiously because I am on something of a mission, but I have opted for the claim of actually making a confession. The example I am following is the Augsburg Confession, proclaimed before a mixed assembly of  leaders in 1530.

This confession consisted of twenty-one theses regarding worship and seven antitheses regarding the abuses of the church. One thing to bear in mind about this seminal work is that it did promulgate doctrinal issues though it was anything but an esoteric document. It essentially liberated ordinary people from oppressive conditions imposed by a state-sanctioned orthodoxy. A confession of any other era should deliver that same kind of benefit regardless of national, ethnic or cultural creeds.

My confession is based on a story described in my previous message. At its heart was a brief list of actions, which I contend fostered a perspective of three life-giving virtues. These are best remembered by using the Sheep Pen Confession’s initials to stand for Service, Presence and Compassion. Today’s message is about Service.

Most of my career was spent in the service industry. This means the companies which employed me did not manufacture a physical product. Physical activity was common as in the time I worked for a friend, who had a cleaning service. More often, though, I was involved in number crunching – financial statements, tax returns and projections. My rise to administrative fame involved the management of a few cultural entities, where education and entertainment were combined to fulfill the mission as a service to the general public.

Service in these cases did not deny the right to generate revenue. In fact that was the point. My livelihood came from providing services for which people were willing to pay. When I write about Service as a component of the Sheep Pen Confession, however, it is the sacrificial kind, compensation not required.

The six examples of Service given in the story, which forms the basis of this confession, involves feeding the hungry, providing water to those who thirst, giving hospitality to wanderers, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, and visiting those in prison. Such efforts require grace without an invoice.

The beauty of the types of Services listed here is that anyone can do them. It’s not rocket science as the saying goes. The overhead is minimal as is the travel. Foreign fields need not figure into these actions. The magnitude of their result, however close in proximity to us, is beyond measure. And we might find that the resulting gratitude similarly has no limit in terms of depth, breadth or height.

The compensation is internal, but bliss is not guaranteed. Servants are easily abused as they follow the dynamics of Service as defined us by the one who told the story of dividing the sheep from the goats. His definition of Service defines our perspective of self, for he said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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