The View from My Window: Working Hard at “Serving Effortlessly”

The View from My Window: Working Hard at “Serving Effortlessly”

David A. Gilmore


5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

—Luke 17:5–10 NRSV

Some of the recent events have caused me to remember a few lines from Watty Piper’s “The Little Engine That Could.” Some of you may remember the little engine transforming from one who says “I think I can…I think I can” to “I know I can...I know I can.”

Contrary to what some may believe, a pastor’s workweek does not begin and end on Sunday morning during the worship celebration. A pastor’s response to God’s calling on their life is demanding and sometimes costly. 

Between caring for families in crisis, visitations to the hospital, preparing for church meetings, attending district meetings, attending conference meetings, engaging in the life of the neighborhood, preparations for Bible study and the Sunday sermon, trying to spend quality time with loved ones, making sure bills get paid, and, trying to remain or get back into shape, it sometimes seems like there are more things we have to do than there are hours in the day! In a seven-day week there are 168 hours. Just this last week, between the church, family, and school, I had a total of 28 hours for personal time. Of course, my personal time was the time I slept; but . . . it was personal.

I don’t tell this story for sympathy. I understand that all of us have busy schedules and that our “supply” does not always meet the “demand!” I understand! I understand how sometimes our patience becomes shorter as the requests become longer. I understand! I also understand how all too often it seems like we have to cram 10 pounds of “stuff” into a two-pound sock! I understand! However, I also believe that we might need to seriously consider becoming more like the “little engine that could” . . . with a twist! 

Prior to our Gospel lesson, Jesus has told his disciples (that’s us) that we are not only responsible for our actions, but also for rebuking (and forgiving) our sisters and brothers! I guess the thought of having to forgive—of not being able to hold that grudge—of having to care about someone else caused some problems with Jesus’ followers.

These were hardcore followers; the kind who scared the establishment, yet they (we) struggled with “turning the other cheek” and “loving everyone.” For whatever reasons, these disciples go to the person they know can help them. The apostles tell—not ask—but tell Jesus to “increase our faith!” 
And, to this seemingly innocuous request, Jesus uses illustrations of a mustard seed and servitude to teach. I wonder how many “believers” today know Jesus commands, yet make excuses as to why it may not happen . . . I think I can! 

Many of us, like the little engine looking at that big mountain, may think there is no way we can do this. Who are we to make a difference? We are the ones to say something is impossible, however, Jesus teaches us that just a little faith—not a lot—just a little faith leads us into a transformational belief that “yes—we can!” It’s not that we need more faith, but rather a question of what are we doing with the faith we already possess . . . I know I can!

How much faith do we need to invite someone to the church house? How much faith do we need to care enough to become engaged with and to our community? How much faith do we need to be intentional in providing safe spaces for ALL of God’s children? How much faith do we need to “know” we can be all that God has purposed us to be?

I have always believed that God’s grace and our faith make anything we do, that is of God, blessed by God! God has called us to be “little engines” that know “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” (Phil. 4:13)

If we want to become transformational representatives of Jesus Christ, try becoming “the little engine that could.” I know I can . . .I know I can! I know I can stand up against racism. I know I can face up to racial profiling. I know I can speak up against hate crimes. I know I can take some time away from the golf course and spend it mentoring a teenager, or visiting someone imprisoned, or helping our elderly. I am encouraging you to exert a little less effort trying to get out of serving and a little more effort into serving effortlessly. I know I can . . . yes . . . I know I can!

When we live lives that show the world that God’s grace is amazing, and God’s mercies are tender, and God’s love is divine, then the world will hear our “whistle” blow and maybe—just maybe—believe that we believe in the One who blessed with that mustard-sized seed of faith in the first place. I can hear a whistle blowing and know we can—with Christ. What about you?

Stepping away from my window . . . shalom!

Gilmore, who officially began his ministry as director of congregational development and revitalization for the New York Conference on July 1, is a native son of the NYAC. His father, Rev. Don Gilmore, served churches in White Plains and Pine Bush, N.Y. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Gilmore most recently served Centennial UMC in Kansas City, Mo.