LPNI Devotion – September 2016


On being a servant


One of the challenges facing any minister of the gospel, is how best to balance leadership with servanthood.  Whether they want it or not, pastors are, in fact, called to be ‘servant-leaders’.  So are parish nurses.  In fact, in the Lutheran Church in Finland they are called diaconal nurses. 


The New Testament Greek word, diakonos, simply means servant or helper, and the office of ‘deacon’ was one of the first established in the early Church.  The parish nurse movement began in Kaiserwerth in Germany, where Pastor Fliedner began training women for service, either as teaching deaconesses, or as nursing deaconesses.


Jesus once said:  The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:26).  It’s because of that great act of service that a growing number of nurses around the world are committing themselves to prepare for and offer themselves in service as parish nurses.


The verse quoted above comes from a context in which Jesus had been talking about men who had been ‘called’ to serve in a vineyard at different hours throughout the day.  At the end of the day, they all received the same payment.  Without elaborating on the parable, it does teach us that the opportunity to serve in the kingdom of God is a privilege.  We don’t ‘earn’ points with God through our service.  We serve because he has already served us in such a heart-rending way … and continues to do so.  In the service we offer to others, we simply reflect to them the love of God that has graciously claimed, empowered and motivated us through Jesus Christ.


In a magazine article I read some time ago, the Rev Greg Priebbenow wrote: ‘Of all the habits of the Christian life, it is service that perhaps most directly embodies the heart of God’.

He went on to quote from Michael Foss’s book, Real Faith for Real Life.


Foss wrote: ‘The essence of God is love in serving action.  We cannot know God apart from God’s serving love for us.  If human beings are created in the image of God — incomplete as that image is — then serving is at the heart of who we are.  There is no purpose to your life without acts of serving.  In those actions we discover the best of ourselves.’


While serving one’s neighbour is the calling all Christians are given through Jesus Christ, it is a special ‘call’ heard and followed by those who serve their fellow human beings as a parish nurse.  In the word picture of the final judgment recorded in Matthew 25:34–40 Jesus points out that those who serve the hungry or thirsty, the lonely, the needy, the sick or those in

prison, actually encounter Christ in their acts of service.  The blessings of such meetings flow in two directions, as I’m sure many parish nurses can testify.


Through such acts of service, parish nurses — like pastors — grow in using their God-given gifts as their faith takes on concrete expression.  At the same time, as they become ‘little Christs’ to those they serve (a favourite expression of Martin Luther), they are privileged to see God at work both in and through themselves.


Rev Robert J Wiebusch

Paradise, South Australia