Re-Gather to Reflect (20-30min)
Make sure the Scripture text relates to service, in general, or the project. Be sure the verbal message tells the story of the action message. What are we doing? Why is it important? Who will benefit? When possible, have someone engaged in this ministry already (as a “provider” or “recipient”) share the message/give a testimony. Two texts and points are provided for your preparation and reflection.
* What does obedience look like? Jesus talks about what God expects from us, he uses an analogy of sheep and goats. His listeners would be used to sheep and goats grazing together, but separating at night for sleep. Goats are considered indocile, a bit wild, and often viewed in a negative light (“scapegoat”). Yet Jesus is looking for more than docility in his sheep. Being well-behaved and being compassionate are not the same thing. Not doing the wrong thing is not the same as doing the right thing. Being a rule-follower does not make us a Jesus-follower.
* What does compassion mean? Jesus says that those who see another’s need and meet it, are caring for Christ as they care for others. The compassionate response is not entirely proscribed; it is a response that is both alert and deeply attentive. It meets basic needs, but possibly in creative ways. In this parable, we see that those who respond compassionately are not keeping track. Those who are responding compassionately to others in need see neighbor; they are not just pursuing virtue or achievement in good works. We do well to see how Christ aligns Himself with those in need, rather than to fail to see neighbor as we seek to serve Jesus.
* What makes Mary a radical servant? Her consent to a plan that seemed unfathomable? That placed her life at risk? Her prophetic exclamation? Her belief she was favored? That she could be the one chosen by God to play a key part in the Lord’s plan for His people? Consider what might it mean to believe that we are loved and designed to act in the world in accord with the Creator’s will. If we believe that are chosen for good works prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), then what difference does that make in how we live? Will we have courage to do and say dangerous things, in accord to God’s will (not our own self-seeking)?
* How do Elizabeth and Mary help each other? Consider how do we help each other when we find that God’s plans for our lives look different than “normal”? Service is not always “helper” to “helped”. Service is often a mutual exchange of gifts. Let us consider that service can look different than we plan. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. Rather than seeking control, let us seek to be attentive and caring. Let us give God room to reveal Godself in ways that are unexpected and wonderful.
There are many physical labor projects that can be done within a 60-90 minute timeframe. Some projects take more time, which may be a great opportunity on another occasion for groups that have the skills and interest or for a full day event. Some relatively “short” physical labor projects include: mowing lawns, sweeping sidewalks, snow shoveling, basic gardening for neighbors or in a community garden space, litter clean-up, indoor housework like fixing a leaky faucet, mopping floors, etc., painting benches, fences, etc.
Pre-arrange attire. Encourage everyone to wear their work clothes in your announcements, Facebook, Twitter, e-mails and text messages. Having extra work clothes available for newcomers and those who didn’t get the message is important.
Pre-arrange locations. Consider folks with limited mobility, newly living on their own (widowed, divorced, etc.), up in age, or with specific home issues that are known to you. After you have identified homes, contact residents and ask if they would like to be put on the list for possible service – if the team is able to get them. This is an offer, but not a guarantee! Don’t offer services you can’t provide. For public beautification projects, ensure that you know all the rules and are following them.
The majority of tasks should be low-skill, so that everybody can participate (and not cause damage). Visiting, watching over very small children, giving out plants, equipment and the like, and going at a slow pace are good options for folks who cannot manage a lot of physical exertion.
Some relatively “short” inside-the-sanctuary physical labor projects include: making hygiene or other kits, making and packing sandwiches, and sorting donated goods. You will likely need to conduct a drive in advance for the items you are distributing. Setting up an assembly line of tables for packing hygiene kits or sack lunches is very feasible within most sanctuary spaces. If feasible and hygienic, consider doing other activities like sorting donated goods and sandwich making in the sanctuary space. Delivery can occur later or immediately after the service. It depends on your context.. However, when that happens and it should happen before the next Sunday – make sure to take a photo and share it at the next service.)