Sermoncitos, a family tradition
Many are Called but Few are Chosen
During his ministry, Jesus spoke often of the “Kingdom of Heaven”, a place that we strive to attain. The testimony of the scriptures is hope that we can be chosen to enter this wonderful place. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15: 53). We enter this kingdom by a narrow path that few find (Matthew 7:13-14). “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
It is clear who is called to this holy calling, it is those who have received a testimony that Jesus was chosen as Redeemer and Savior. “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious... ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:3,5).
Those who enter this narrow path of testimony in Jesus and offer the spiritual sacrifice of obedience “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people...” (1 Peter 2:9). They are converted and become like little children, qualified to be called into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).
To clarify the qualifications, Jesus teaches in parables. “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-16). He hired all day and paid the same wages to the last as to the first. The early hires got offended, and inspired the fateful declaration, “many are called, but few are chosen” (verse 16), a reminder of His conversation with the rich young man whose desires for his possessions inspired the astonishing statement, “that a rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:23).
The parable of the vineyard finished with the caution: “the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:33-45). Again, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son”, and the people he invited did not come, so he invited others, and they were the ones who were received into the banquet (Matthew 22:2-14). Once again the parable finishes with “many are called, but few are chosen”.
May we hearken to the call, and remain faithful so that we may be chosen to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The news this week has been full of examples of people willing to sacrifice all their time and resources to help others in crisis. The earthquake in Peru left survivors who are giving their time and food and energy to help the suffering. I spoke to a man last night who is deploying with a medical team to Texas to be prepared for the landfall of Hurricane Dean. The miners in Utah were willing to sacrifice all, even at the risk of their lives for the remote possibility they might rescue those who were trapped. This week a close friend lost a son in Iraq, bringing to mind Jesus’ powerful statement, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Throughout his ministry, Jesus gave constant service, spoke of serving, and told parables to teach that service is a key principle in salvation. At the end of his ministry Jesus gathered his apostles for a last supper. There they argued about who should be accounted the greatest. Jesus contrasted his own example of service to that of the kings who want to be served to show their power. Then he said exactly what he meant: he that is greatest among you is the one who serves the others (Luke 22:24-27). He continued to demonstrate this principle as he healed the servant of the high priest who was injured during Jesus’s arrest; then suffered the crucifixion to serve all.
Mosiah is an example of a leader who understood that his role was to serve, not to be served. He used his own example of service to encourage the people to serve one another. “But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me... And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne...if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? (Mosiah 2:11, 14, 18). He reminds me of Gordon B. Hinckley, who continues to serve at age 97.
We can’t divide our loyalties in service to every tradition. Our service should be devoted to the true creator, not to the tradition of our fathers. Joshua told the people,“...choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). We don’t serve God to earn a place in his kingdom, as only the grace of Christ can save us; yet we stay on the path to God by serving in his kingdom. “I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another - I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21).
Yet it is our duty to be of service. “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:26). We serve God by obeying His commandments. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31).
This is my fifth sermoncito about “service”. I was surprised to see that most have been written as funeral sermons. It is clear that we are serving others when we take time for their needs while they are suffering, incapacitated, or grieving. On Thursday I drove with a friend for 12 hours to be with him at the funeral of his mother-in-law’s brother. The 77 year old had been under constant care since falling ill 13 years ago. Many had been blessed because of his need to be served for an extended time. Many were blessed by his loving expressions and guileless service to them throughout his life. Even in his final years, the people felt blessed by his selflessness and concern for each of them. I took off work to be with the family, and found myself available for service. I played and sang at the service and the graveside ceremony. They were especially grateful for the prayers I offered, filling in for the priest who failed to arrive.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus gave constant service, spoke of serving, and told parables to teach that service is a key principle in salvation. At the end of his ministry Jesus gathered his apostles for a last supper. He told them that he that is greatest among you is the one who serves the others (Luke 22:24-27). We are more Christlike when we stay aware of the needs of others, and do our part to meet the needs of the poor and needy and to share the Gospel with all.
Another type of service is to accept callings and assignments in the Kingdom. These are not callings we seek for, we are just available should they come. We are blessed by fulfilling these callings, and grateful for the opportunity. Such opportunities are precious, and even rare. During the 1930s few were called to serve as missionaries due to the extreme poverty of the worldwide economic depression, yet both of my parents served. During the 1940s few were called due to the world war. During the 1950s Korean War the draft boards limited missionary service in favor of military service. My brother and I were among the few young men who served in the 1960s, as the Vietnam War draft boards limited missionary callings. My wife served 27 months at a time when women filled the shortage of qualified men. My own children, nephews and nieces who served missions were among the few of their generation who met the stringent qualifications, as the bar was raised. I was deeply moved to tears today as I stood in my own home to raise my hand to sustain Thomas S. Monson as prophet, seer, and revelator. I was amazed to realize that my emotion was not due to the process of sustaining, but was an actual manifestation of the Spirit confirming that he is called of God. President Monson is called to serve, so he does serve. We serve by sustaining those called to serve. President Monson receives strength from our sustaining vote. We can follow his example by being available for service where God calls, and when our friends, neighbors, and relatives are in need.
As a composer, I am impressed with the need for each instrument of the ensemble. I feel badly to ask someone to come in and play only a few measures, while others play nearly all the time. Yet, I work hard to impress upon every player that they are needed. I wrote their part to meet a musical need, and only later noticed that I am not asking much. Yet, it takes just as much of their time to show up and count measures as those who have much to play. Whether your service is to the whole church as a full time missionary or general authority, or just to smile and make others feel welcome, all service is needed and appreciated. “...if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:26).