I make myself a servant to everyone. I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might win some (to the Gospel).
- The Apostle Paul
I Corinthians 9:19, 22
The phrase prima donna used to mean, a female opera singer of the highest rank.
But in the evolution of word meanings, someone who is called a prima donna today is considered temperamental or self-important. Rarely does such a person reach the top of the popularity chain, as the following incident from the devotional booklet, Our Daily Bread, explains:
During a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, the renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini offered some constructive criticism to the female soloist, which she was too proud to accept.
I am the star of this performance! the lady exclaimed. Toscanini responded wisely when he said, Madame, in this performance there are no stars.
The writer of the meditation based on this incident concluded, The Lord isnt looking for soloists who want to be stars; Hes looking for workers who are willing to be servants.
Today, the Sunday before Labor Day, our pastor has asked the members of the congregation to celebrate their line of work by wearing their work clothes to church.
Exceptions are made for those of us who work at home and may not want to be seen in public in our grubbies, but the idea is to be grateful for the opportunities we pursue, and for the income we receive which helps meet our daily needs.
Last Sunday, however, our congregation recognized the labor of another kind. For health reasons, a longtime member, Lamar Kendrick, asked recently to be excused from serving as an usher. When he was asked how long he had served in that capacity, he replied, Fifty-two years.
I think of my own years in church work and grimace. If my health and hands hold up, it wont be long before I, too, will have acquired a half-century of service to the church. But, except for the apprentice years, as an organist or music director I get paid for what I do. Somehow the plaque and round of appreciative applause Kendrick received for his normally unsung task seemed like far too little reward for such fine service to his Lord and his church. However, knowing this fine servant as I do, I suspect he considers his wages paid in full. Lamar Kendrick understands the Apostle Pauls example and instruction to make himself a servant (I Corinthians 9:19).
In Gods eyes, being a servant doesnt necessarily mean becoming a slave or acquiring any of the negative connotations associated with that word. Though not a Labor Day story, the following incident, reported August 23 in the Israel National News adds another dimension to the word servant.
Avraham Moshe and Chavi Adamkar decided to spend the happiest day of their lives making others happy. They were married Monday morning in a modest ceremony in the Jerusalem Rabbinate, and then surprised 600 needy people - who usually come daily to the Meir Panim Soup Kitchen for a free hot meal - by celebrating their wedding feast with them.
According to reporter David Regev, the Adamkars turned the modest lunchroom into a wedding hall for a day, complete with white tablecloths, fancy dishes and silverware, a sumptuous feast, and a band playing music.
The atmosphere was festive, reports Regev, and many guests who celebrated with the bride and groom forgot their troubles for a short while.
Our purpose was to give some joy to people who dont have much, the bridegroom said. We fulfilled the Torah commandment of making a meal for poor people on the wedding day, while his wife confirmed that this was more than obedience to a command. Were thrilled that we were able to bring so much joy to these people on our wedding day.
Madames, musicians, and the privileged multitudes of the world would do well to heed Director Toscaninis advice, the instruction of St. Paul, and the above examples. There are no stars in (lifes) performance, but the employment line for servants always has room for a few more.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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