Responding to human need: walk with your brothers and sisters

By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle

They say those who sing, pray twice.

Certainly music can carry within it a powerful means of self-expression. It is also true that when we pay close attention to the words of the hymns these too can become a special kind of prayer:

“Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you.” (Common Praise #504)

“Sister, let me be your servant let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.” (Common Praise #500)

“As we worship, grant us vision till your love’s revealing light in its height and depth and greatness dawns upon our quickened sight, making known the needs and burdens your compassion bids us bear, stirring us to ardent service, your abundant life to share” (Common Praise #585)

How many of our hymns invite us to service? Indeed, we are reminded “Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found; brought here together by Christ’s love, by love are we thus bound.” (Common Praise #487) There are many hymns which remind us that being Christian includes responding to human need with loving service. This is the third of our Marks of Mission. In a time when it is so easy to write a cheque (or make an e-transfer), where boxes collecting donations for those in need are readily available, there are many opportunities for us to contribute in ways that will help those in need. These donations are important and make a difference.

Service, however, is defined as the action of helping or doing work for someone. The operative word here is ACTION. The ideal is to engage in relationship with those whom we serve as modelled by the way Jesus engaged in relationships while on the earth.

We are reminded what this looks like Maundy Thursday as we hear the story once again, where Jesus, during his last supper with his friends, takes off his outer robe, ties a towel around himself and washes feet. It is a powerful image. The master, teacher, Rabbi of this group takes on the role of the servant, doing what is smelly and dirty for those he knows will soon deny, abandon and betray him. When he is finished Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35)

While our worship on Maundy Thursday includes the symbolic washing of feet, the point isn’t to embrace a literal interpretation of this story once a year. We are continually invited to reflect on the ways washing feet becomes a metaphor for our service in the community and in the world. How do we symbolically and literally take off our outer robes, tie towels around our waists and do that which is smelly and dirty in an effort to show love to those around us? To what extent are we open to “Come and journey, journey outward, where that cross call us to care, where injustice and where hunger and the poor call us to share?” (Common Praise #482)

Our songs, our prayers provide gentle reminders that walking the Way of Jesus Christ calls us into a profound way of being that includes responding to human need not only through donations but also in the ways we intentionally choose to create relationships and walk with brothers and sisters, washing feet, sharing bread and trusting in the wonder that is the Good News. This is how we show that we are Jesus’ disciples, by the love we show in our service to others.

Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is the Social Justice Huron chair.