The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
The end of all things is near. This statement is assumed, stated as fact. This is the premise on which he bases the statement after saying "therefore". Some think this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, others the increasing persecution, whatever the case, the instructions are clear. Be alert and sober minded so that you can pray. I am reminded of the disciples falling asleep in the garden. For them the end of all things was near. They were asked to keep watch, be alert, and pray. But they could not. So often I turn to things that numb my mind instead of staying alert. This is foolishness and disobedience.
Above all, love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love covers. God's love has covered our sin, not in some willful blindness but with grace and his blood. Love invites people over and serves them (hospitality) without grumbling, without complaining about how you have to clean your house, without bringing up grudges. Love serves dinner to and washes the feet of the man who will betray you.
It logically follows that we are to use our gifts to serve others. I've been reading Richard Fosters "Celebration of Discipline" again. I'm not sure I've ever really finished it; I find myself re-reading sections over and over. Service is one of them. God has been good to me. I have many gifts. And I know the consequences of pouring them out on others. Sometimes they are received with joy; other times they are thrown back in your face. But you cannot fill yourself up again either way. But the truth of it is here. These things we have are gifts. I didn't give them to myself, they are not an outpouring of myself. Rather they are what I've been given by God, his outpouring into me is my pleasure and joy to be able to pour out to others. In imitation of Christ who didn't hoard his great wealth in himself in heaven, but came to earth to pour himself out, to pull out a towel and wash his disciples' feet, even those of Judas. Thus our words, our service, is God's. The strength to continue in it is his also. And in the end, the glory is his as well. It is my prayer that both I and you will be filled with God's strength to do his will, to use his gifts as faithful stewards in the service of others.
What did Jesus do when the end of all things was near? He was alert and praying. He was loving even his betrayer. He was hospitable and serving.
"Voluntary servitude is a great joy." -Richard Foster