Pastor Larson’s Corner: Not to be served but to serve

Pastor Larsons Corner

The summer following my graduation from Seminary, my wife and I spent two months on the staff of Holden Village. I did not begin my first pastorate until August, so it was a wonderful way to spend our waiting time. Holden is a retreat center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, and it relies upon volunteers to staff many of its programs. My job was to supervise volunteers and to organize various work projects in the village.

One evening while I was mixing paint in the workshop, a guest of the village stopped by to volunteer for the painting crew. After I spoke to him about volunteering, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I recently graduated from the seminary and would be starting in my first parish the next month. His response came as a surprise to me. He said, “You know, that’s one of the things that really bothers me about this place. You can’t tell the pastors from the people.”

In Mark’s Gospel we read that two disciples of Jesus, James and John, came to Him and asked Him to establish them as leaders in the coming Kingdom. They said to Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Instead of granting them their wish, Jesus used the occasion to teach one of the most important truths of the Gospel. He said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”

At Holden Village you truly cannot tell the pastors from the people. The distinctions among people that so characterize our everyday lives are gone. People are either staff or guests, and often the guests work as hard as the staff. Those two months at Holden gave me a glimpse of what true community can be. Perhaps if we all put serving ahead of being served, we can experience some of that same thing right in our own back yard.

Pastor Larson’s Corner is written by Jerry Larson and appears weekly in the Norwegian American Weekly.

Pastor Jerry Larson retired to his cabin in Zimmerman, Minn., after 39 years in parish ministry for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 2011 he published a book entitled “Speaking the Word Freely: Writing with purpose, preaching with power.” Contact him at

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 16, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.