Year C Epiphany 2 John 2 2013
In The Service
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Anyone here remember what they used to call places where you put gas in your car?
When you pulled in, someone (or sometimes even more than one) raced out to greet you, ask what you needed, and proceeded to fill your gas tank with fuel. While you sat, warm and comfy in your car, the "service station" attendant washed your windows, checked your oil, even checked your tire pressure. After filling up the tank they took your payment and wished you well and waved you off.
"Service stations" also used to give out gifts after so many gallons of gas had been purchased (unbelievable, right?!) I will bet that a lot of us here this morning grew up drinking from juice glasses provided by Shell or Texaco, instead of Steuben or Tiffany.
What is the first thing that comes to mind today when someone asks if you ever were "in the service?" There used to be two primary meanings of that phrase "in the service." The first was military service -- the "service" given by all those men and women who "served" to defend and protect our country. That why George Washington asked for no pay for serving as Commander-in-Chief of Continental forces during the Revolutionary War. He looked at what he was doing as a "service" to his country, so he refused to accept any pay. Nor he did submit expenses, which when added up amounted to nearly ten times what his salary would have been. Before taking office as President, he again offered to serve without pay if all his expenses were covered. This time Congress courteously declined. (Sebastian De Grazia, "A Necessary Evil is Also a Necessary Good," TLS: Times Literary Supplement, 26 May 2000, 12.)
The second association of being "in the service" is now made bare in a hit television show, now in its third series. Any fans of "Downton Abbey" out there? What did it mean in the early twentieth century to be "in the service?"
Of course, it meant being a "servant" to others. "In the service" meant a life lived in service to others -- whether that service was being a butler, a governess, a cook, a maid, a footman, or a working, serving part of a larger whole, and probably not receiving a whole lot of accolades for doing what you're doing. Service has always been part and parcel of being "in the service"...