“I volunteer as tribute!” This is one of those unforgettable lines in The Hunger Games book and movie series. Katniss volunteers in place of her little sister Primrose to fight in the Hunger Games (a fight to the death among the children selected from each district). It’s a pretty intense scene. Katniss and her entire district know that going to the Hunger Games is a virtual death sentence. Katniss will likely never see her family or friends again. Yet, she chooses to put her own life on the line to save her sister.

Interesting fact: the word “volunteer” was first used in the early 1600s to refer to those who offer themselves for military service. With that in mind, “volunteer” is a fitting word to use in the context above. While this story is fictional, it reminds us that there are innumerable people around the world who volunteer their lives in the service of their family, their country, and their faith.

Jesus himself shows us what it means to volunteer in the place of another. He had every opportunity to avoid death. He is God after all, and we are actually the ones who deserve the punishment. But he chose to take our place anyway – all because he loves us, and he loves God, whose will it was to bring us back into relationship with Him.

So, what does all of this mean for us? Most of us won’t be asked to literally give our lives for another. When we talk about volunteering, it’s usually for something much more mundane (like Sunday School, perhaps!). While I don’t think we all need to make a drastic life change, it is perhaps an opportunity to examine the way we think about volunteering.

The term “volunteer” comes from the Latin word voluntārius, meaning “of one’s free will.” In fact, the Spanish word for “will” is voluntad. Volunteering isn’t (or isn’t meant to be) something we do out of obligation. Volunteering is exercising our free will, which is freely given by God, and using it to give of our time and talents. We volunteer for things we believe in, doing things we hope will make a difference.

Places like St. Michael’s would not be possible without countless volunteers making the choice to volunteer in various roles. St. Michael’s has continued serving our Lord and our community for 124 years only because so many people have felt called to participate in the mission of this church.*

We can choose to spend our lives doing whatever we want, and that is such a gift! On the flip side, there is always a choice to be made. God will not, and people cannot (though they may try to), force us to do anything. The question, then, is how do we choose to exercise our free will?

May we pray as Jesus did, “not my will, but yours be done,” continually seeking to use our time and talents to “voluntarily” play a role in God’s work of love to spread His kingdom on Earth.

See how you can use your spiritual gifts at St. Michael’s.

*The mission of St. Michael’s by-the-Sea is to be a beacon of God’s truth and love; through the richness of traditional Anglican worship, by equipping the saints to bear witness to Christ wherever they may be, and by sharing in Christ’s work of reconciliation and healing in the world.

This article was written by Children’s Minister, Becky Gleason.