Servants – 22 October, 2018


Two women work in the wash house. One bends over a tub , sleeves rolled up, working hard. A second servant woman descends the stairs carrying another load. This is a place of service, a lower place.  The work is hard and necessary, and will take all day. The household above requires clean linen and clothes. The women are hidden from those they serve, but also from the viewer. The one that descends the stairs is in the shadows, the one at the tub is turning her face, so we are not able to fully see her, but the strength in her arms and neck show her sense of purpose. The servants might be hidden, but they here have dignity and value, and their work is essential. The picture is The Wash House, 1905, by William Orpen.

So much of service is hidden, and carried out by anonymous people on low wages. Essential work is done for us by people without names, to whom we give little thought. They take the lowest places in society.

In the section of St Mark’s Gospel concerned with discipleship that we have been reading on Sundays through the last few weeks, Jesus has had much to say about servants. If a person wants to be great in the Kingdom of God, then they should be the least, be the servant of all. Service and servant-hood are not at all romantic. This picture reminds us of the thankless hard work undertaken by those who serve, who are often out of sight and mind.


Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.

Mark 10:43

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10

Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

Richard A M Gilliard