Thought for the Day by Richard Barton (All Hallows’)
Today is the day we honour Saint Augustine of Hippo. Augustine was a bishop in North Africa in the Fourth Century and responsible for much of the theology of the church today. He wrote about sin, sex and free will and much else that is probably beyond this kind of thought for the day. But what I find most fascinating about this man is the fact that he was one of the earliest abolitionists and condemned slavery and urged the Emporer to release all slaves. Interestingly he thought that slavery caused more harm to the slave owner than to the slave themselves. Now with the current concerns about modern slavery, no one would dare to suggest that is as important to ensure enslaved people gain freedom and dignity, as it is for those who enslave to be brought to justice.
But I suspect Augustine thought that in the eyes of God, is worse for those who kept slaves, because he felt that Christ teaches us that it is better to serve than to be served as when he washed the feet of his disciples at the last supper.
Musing on the concept of being a servant (rather than a slave) it occurs to me that this links to the word service which is a very widely used term today. We live, we are told, in what is largely a service economy in this country. Financial services are very important. I work for the National health service.
We come to church (literally or virtually these days) to a service of divine worship, served by God, the suffering servant. So my thought for today is to consider how we can serve one another. In the words of Bob Dylan, in one of the songs from his infamous (to his fans!) Christian phase, “Everyone’s gotta serve somebody”. Or perhaps a better song, the lovely “Brother, Sister, let me serve you. Let me be as Christ to you.”