It was on an ordinary Friday evening a few weeks back that Edgewood Community Church organized its first volunteer appreciation night. What a great time.
There were gifts and prizes (waterparks and a kindle and gift cards and even a prime parking spot). There was tasty food served by handsome, well-dressed waiters (wink, wink). There were even shoulder rubs all night by three professional masseuses (Do you doubt me? I looked it up – indeed, that is the official plural of masseuse). We wanted to say thank you…and I think we accomplished it.
Honestly, the night didn’t come from my impetus but some of the other staff (who, of course, I should publicly acknowledge now but I fear I would miss someone). Anyway, now I’m only sorry we waited so long to have such a night, but I’m thankful for the staff that brought it to pass. If you don’t live here in Wisconsin, you now have a reason to move to our fair state and this fair city of Waupun. If you’re an Edgewood servant and you missed the night, well, fear not because we hope to do it up again next year. And if you’re an Edgewood attendee but not serving – well, get busy so you’ll get an invitation next year (not to mention for a host of other even better reasons).
But I digress – did you know that our night was very biblical? I mention this because there is a tendency on the part of some to think that volunteer appreciation is a construct of worldly thinkers who are just trying to run the church like a business. Not so. Of course we know that it’s biblical to say thank you. The one appreciative leper – whose momma taught him well – convinced us of that (And by the way, where were the other nine? See Luke 17). But more than that, it’s right to publicly appreciate excellence in God’s servants, as Paul teaches the Corinthians:
Now I urge you, brothers– you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people. 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 (ESV)
The NLT spells that last thought out quite nicely:
…You must show your appreciation to all who serve so well. 1 Corinthians 16:18 (NLT)
You get the idea: Offer a public acknowledgement to faithful servants. And when you think about it, Paul was doing just that in this letter, not to mention in Romans 16 and other places. He practiced what he preached.
But…are you curious as to why?
Okay, well, let me try my hand at channeling C.S. Lewis for a few sentences, and then I will relieve you by simply quoting him.
Do you remember the time your mom or dad took you to the park as a child? If you do, that is if you were blessed enough to have such an experience once or twice, then remember what you said when you were swinging high and their attention was elsewhere: “Mom, Mom, Mom…Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” In that moment, what did you desperately want? Didn’t you want what all of us want…ultimately? Don’t all of us want to one day hear, not ultimately, “Good job, Suzy, I see you in the swing,” but instead, a far greater appreciation…coming from a far Greater One.
So…we are commanded to praise and acknowledge one another, because ultimately we were all created to please. And therefore, when we are appreciated, it completes the circuit. But of course, we are truly created to please God, not one another, and yet there is great pleasure in hearing today what we ultimately only be satisfied hearing from Him.
And now Lewis…
“The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son – it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
And so our volunteer appreciation night a few weeks ago was right and good because God wanted to give us a foretaste, but a mere foretaste, a blessed hint giving an ever so slight sense of what we will see and hear on that day, when we, because of Christ…see the Father’s smile and hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Master.”
For Wednesday, May 27th: 2 Corinthians 1