In college I earned spending money by waitressing in Neilson Dining Hall on the Woodbury campus of Douglass College. One year I became a waitress waitress and had to eat at 4 to serve the waitresses their meal at 4:45 so they could then serve everyone at 5:30. Last winter I felt that role call me again as I prepared words to share with the crowd of 60 women from my church, whom I had gathered together for a Holi-Day Dinner out.
I wanted to share how I felt reconnected to that role because I was in effect serving the servers, the servants of our church who also were servants to their worlds at large, learning through their Sunday worship and studies, the selflessness required in helping those in need.
I kept that thought to myself, not sharing it until now. For in relating to an ongoing problem in my understanding and insight about God’s equal love for us all, that metaphor of waitress waitress came up. During worship today we heard of the January 12 Congregational meeting where the Nominating committee would make their report. My heart automatically sank for an instant or two or three. For I had not been notified that I had been recognized as a leader this time around, nor my personal gifts recognized, or if they were, not deemed necessary for special consecration in our church.
But then this feeling could be that of dozens of others that were not chosen….The idea of “celebrity” came to mind also. We were not the celebrities, the leaders, the officials. But then “waitress waitress” seemed to be waiting there for me in my spiritual malaise, waiting to serve me as the answer to take the smack out of whatever rejection I felt.
Those church officers served us, the servers, the members. They were assigned to do for us what we are assigned by God to do for others around us in our personal or public world. Had I been any more important or essential than those dozens of waitresses who served the campus? Are these officers….servant leaders according to our teachings and polity….any more essential than all of us servants being sent out into the world? Maybe in one way, they too were being sent out into the world to serve, and that, after serving us first or along with. Just as I, as a waitress waitress had to serve myself and then the waitresses, so our leaders had to serve others and their church community, the world’s servants. So for that, we owe them respect and gratitude in community with them. That’s why we celebrate them separately at times.
Should I also be asking what is it we are serving if we wait on the world’s people? It must be that essential human kindness at the center of all serving. A further answer offered itself and was what I received this morning after church from a ninety year old WWII veteran chatting with his natural level of pure but dignified glee in being alive and among his fellows in Christ. So he served me as much as an officer of the church because he was serving up the best, human kindness, his very self. And it is Who we are at our deepest level, where the kindness seed is always growing blossoming and perennially giving us and others life, that I had better understood this morning as what Celebrity in heaven is, what eternity celebrates deeply and utterly. And I am so glad to have kept myself from using “utterly” up until this last sentence because it is so essentially, definitively true about the value of kindness, utterly represented by a God who left home to journey in faith so he could be our fellow, our server, our ultimate server of servants. And what he served up was his personal best, his kind self and its wonderful presence among us. We celebrate whoever follows this ultimate cause of all causes, kind presence among others, for them and with them. Some serve additionally as official representatives, but whoever functions in this beauteous manner, serves us all and serves eternity.