by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The reading for September 13 and 20:
Mark 10: 34-45
I spent part of my past week-end making about 40 pots of coffee at the God's Spa retreat for women. Was I so inspired by the ideas of service that I went to the retreat determined to serve?
Not really. But I do like making coffee in an old-fashioned Bunn machine, and the coffee needed to be made. Not everyone knows how to make coffee that way anymore. The kitchen staff was small and taking care of the food. So I kept the coffee pots full.
Parts of the week-end were designed to have participants relax and let others serve them. It's interesting that some of us were not good at being on the other end of service. I, too, wanted to take the plates back to the kitchen. After all, our servers had spent the week-end working even more intensely than I had.
It's also interesting to observe the way that some of us simply cannot serve. Some of the women were so frail that it wouldn't have been safe to have them carry plates to the kitchen or to make the coffee. It's good to know our limits.
By serving where we can, perhaps we can release others from the calls of service that they cannot fulfill.
Some of us may feel there is no way we can serve, but that's simply not true. We can pray.
I often joke that my prayer list is so long that I need half a day to get through it. Lately, it's not a joke, and I tell myself that even if I run out of time, the monastics do not. I've found it an enormous comfort to know the monks and nuns are praying for us all.
I suspect I'm not alone in feeling comfort. I'm reminded of one of my favorite Kathleen Norris quotes: "Deep down, people seem glad to know that monks are praying, that poets are writing poems. This is what others want and expect of us, because if we do our job right, we will express things that others may feel or know, but can't or won't say" (The Cloister Walk, page 145).
At times, I have needed to be reminded of how important a service it is to keep the world in prayer. And I'm surprised by how often people approach me in secular settings and ask me to pray for them or their families. I remind people that I don't have special powers, that they can pray too.
But I do have a regular practice of prayer, which may be why people ask me to pray for them. We get better at prayer, as we get better at most anything, if we return to it regularly.
A practice of prayer can also make us better attuned to the other ways we can serve. The ways that we can serve are as varied as the whole human race. God has created us with a variety of gifts, and the world needs each and every one of them.