ALVEY: Conversion and service calls to us

Published 9:45 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018

By Jack Alvey | Alvey is the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”

To me, these are some of the most powerful words in all of scripture.

While John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” is the scripture most often used to describe salvation in a nutshell, I am prepared to argue that Mark 1:31 is an equally, if not more important scripture to think of when considering the full nature of salvation.

In this verse from Mark, we not only see how Jesus accomplishes the salvation story in the life of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law when he takes her by the hand and lifts her to life.

But we also see how Simon Peter’s mother-in-law responds to the healing power of God’s love. She begins to serve.

In this verse, we see the intimate connection between the knowledge of our salvation and our call to serve.

It isn’t enough to know the scriptures. It isn’t enough talk the talk. And I will go as far to say, it isn’t enough to walk the walk.

In other words, our service to God in both word and deed can only truly come from a place of healing and conversion. For those of you who haven’t been struck down like Paul on the road to Damascus, do not despair.

Most stories of conversion, healing, and transformation take place over time, over a life-time in fact. I believe my story of conversion, healing, and transformation is on-going. Every time I make myself available to God in prayer and worship and service, I open myself up to a conversion experience.

I believe the same process is true also for congregations and even communities. The process of conversion is like watching a child grow up. While growth might not be apparent one day at a time, there will be a point at which we say, “Wow, when did all this growth happen!?”

Even more, I believe the process of conversion is meant to remind us that the work we do is not our work at all. Rather, the work we do is a product of being touched and lifted to life by the One who is risen from the dead – Jesus Christ our Lord.

If we do not see the connection between on-going conversion and a life of service, we are in trouble.  Service without conversion is a slippery slope that often leads to self-righteousness and anger and burnout. Conversely, I’ve heard it said, “Sitting in church on Sunday won’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a hen house will make you a chicken.”

In the end, this holy rhythm between conversion and service has the power to call us deeper into the Jesus Movement, a movement that overwhelms the world with a story of salvation and healing, a movement that transforms the world with people who have hearts to love and hands to serve.