Our Sister Phoebe, a Deacon

Theological musings inspired by the Spirit and totally Ellen…

>A Servant, But Not Servile…

>Years ago, colleague at my secular job made a comment about my vocation that stuck, and comes back every now and then to remind me of who and what I am.

I was asked very innocently, but respectfully, when I explained that diakonos translated to ‘servant’ in Greek, someone who waited at tables. I went on to explain that the stole the deacon in the church wore, the Byzantine stole that is worn across the body and throw over the left shoulder and down the back could very well signify the towel Jesus wore when he washed the feet of his disciples on that last Thursday night, or it could be the draping of the cloak. Take a look at ancient illustrations of Jesus and paintings of him and you’ll see what I mean – the drape of the cloak is similiar to our stoles. I could be wrong, but the comment always invites an interesting conversation.

The comment my friend made was, “Why do you want to be a servant? People walk all over servants, take advantage of them, they get lousy wages.”

I replied that waiters made good tips, and that one could serve others and not be servile.

I’ve lived and grown into that model over the years.

I’ve had excellent role models – the deacons Stephen and Laurence are excellent examples. Stephen was the one of the first seven to be ordained by the early church and the ministry Christ gave to him is illustrated in the Book of Acts at Chapter 6, verse 1 and continuing into all of Chapter 7. Stephens preaches a powerful sermon, an apology of the infant church, and is stoned to death – the first post-resurrection ‘martyr’ recorded. Martyr in greek translates to ‘witness,’ and Stephen’s powerful, eloquent, preaching, is a witness to his faith and the power of Jesus working in him. Over a hundred years later, another deacon, Laurence, one of the seven deacons of Rome who served the Pope, would also use his words as witness and received death in response. Laurence was asked by the prefect to Valerian to bring to him the treasures of the church in three days’ time. Three days passed, and Laurence brought the poor, homeless and the sick before the prefect stating that they were the treasures of the church. His comment got him grilled, literally, and he reportedly said before he died, “Turn me over, for I am done on this side.” Wit and compassion, conviction. Faith, power and fearless before one’s detractors.

Not very servile traits.

One can serve and still hold one’s convictions and be powerful, using the strength of Christ as one lives out the Gospel.

I try to every day.

Go in peace, dear one!


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