I had jury duty the other morning. I seem to have an aura around me that attracts jury invites. Two days after I received this jury summons, I received one from Wichita County, my former home. In all I have received 7 jury summonses and been on 2 juries, one civil and one criminal. I was on those juries prior to entering the ministry which I have learned is why I was on those juries. An attorney church member once told me that I would likely not be chosen again, because I was one of the P’s, preachers, politicians, painters, and plumbers, who are never chosen for juries.
As always, there was great moaning and gnashing of teeth by the hundreds of people who had been called for 1. having to be there, and 2. the prospects of being selected for a jury. I heard at least a dozen times people joking about making “hanging” comments in hopes of getting off the hook. Apparently this verbiage has become ritualized in the lexicon of the judicial system, similar to church goers saying “and also with you,” whenever they hear “the Lord be with you.” Frankly, I got tired of hearing the whining.
As an observer of people and process, I always enjoy jury duty as I get to see an amazing cross section of people all of whom are out of their element. Yes it takes time, but I think it is fascinating to see people and see how the legal system functions, how it is similar and different to the system portrayed on TV and in the movies. As someone who speaks publicly, and hopefully persuasively, I also enjoy the presentations by the attorneys, how they read and connect with the panel members etc. But, even if people do not share these interests, I think the tired stereotyped sentiments and comments are unfortunate. As much as we as potential jury members don’t want to be there, I am sure that none of the defendants, plaintiffs, victims and families want to be there and would much rather be almost anywhere else. Fortunately, the people on my panel, and the panel’s and juries I have been on before, took the process seriously and were very engaged in the Voir dire process.
It sounds sort of sappy but it is true that we are in the distinct minority of people who have the privilege to serve on, and be served by, juries. It is a hallmark of our judicial system, a system that separates us from the vast majority of nations. On this week before memorial day weekend, it is a very small price to pay compared to the ultimate price many men and women over the centuries have paid so that we could have the protection our society based on the rule of law provides us. Jury duty is a service we should glad to offer our community.
These thoughts on the joy of serving naturally reminded me of the honor it is as Christians to serve Christ. As adults we are not compelled to give service and time to God and Christ’s church, and about the only hammer some have hanging over their heads is guilt about what their parents would think or say about an inactive church status, it is none the less an honor and a privilege for us to serve. I have mentioned in sermons before the honor it was to serve as a Presidential political appointee. I would think, and hope that anyone would be honored to serve the President in any capacity. Yet as much of an honor that is, and was to me, it pales in comparison to serving God in the ministry all Christians are baptized into.
Two of my prized possessions are photos of me shaking the hands of that President I served and a future President; even as I know they were auto-penned. I remember the occasion when I met them. I got up very early, shined my shoes, put on my best suit, endured several security checks, and waited for some time. I did not think twice about the hassles I had to go through to get into their presence. I have also seen people spend hours in the rain waiting to see the President’s motorcade go by. Yet as special as these photos and the memory of being in the presence of these two men are, or the thrill it is to see a Presidential motorcade go by, they pale in comparison to being in the presence of God. God, the creator and sustainer of all things, not only allows me, but wants me to come into his presence through worship and service. Unlike my meeting the Presidents, no one needs to introduce me to God. God knows me and loves me and blesses me continually. Unlike those Presidents, I can communicate with God anytime I want to. God always takes my call whenever I take a few short minutes to contact him through prayer. As I often say when the offering is received during worship, all that we have is given to us by God. Yes I have a duty to God, and unlike the county or state, when I don’t fulfill my duty (or when I offer it grudgingly) I am not arrested, but God is disappointed and I am much, much less fortunate for my laziness. May we all serve, worship, and love God joyfully.