• Steven Marsh

Giving With Gratitude Because of The Unconditional Love of The Triune God–The Profoundness of

As you know, I am a member of the Rotary Club of Mission Viejo. I have been a Rotarian since 2002. Our motto is “Service Above Self.” And we have The Four-Way Test to assist us with integrity and ethical standards. The Four-Way Test reads, “Of the things we think, say, or do: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? And, will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? Lee Eclov in his sermon “Blasphemy!” writes,

Years ago, Bill Hybels shared how he had seen a newscast about a big Vietnam veterans parade in Chicago. Part of the commemoration was a mobile version of the Vietnam Wall. Like the original, it bore the names of all the soldiers who had died in Vietnam. Hybels said one newscaster asked a vet why he had come all the way to Chicago to visit this memorial and to participate in the parade. The soldier looked straight into the face of the reporter and with tears flowing down his face said, “Because of this man right here.” As the soldier talked, he was pointing to the name of a friend that was etched in the wall. He traced the letters of his friend’s name in the wall. The soldier continued to answer the reporter by saying, “This man right here gave his life for me. He gave his life for me.”[1]

Jesus gave his life for you and for me. Christ the King Sunday insists we come to terms with service above self. It is the way of Jesus. It is the way forward for you…for Geneva. It is the way forward for reaching those outside these walls who want to experience unconditional love and just perhaps, come to faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.

The texts in Colossians 1:11-20, Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Luke 23:33-43 address service above self by loving God and others. Colossians 1:11-20 asserts that we are encountered and transformed by God whom we meet in Jesus Christ. Our identity and purpose is rooted in Jesus. In that we can find great encouragement and strength. Colossians 1:11-12 reads, “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

Jeremiah 23:1-6 denounces bad pastors and leaders of God’s people. And despite our foibles as pastors and leaders, God reigns. Jeremiah 23:2-3 reads, “…It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”

Luke 23:33-43 records that Jesus saved others and resisted the temptation to save himself that day at the place called The Skull. Luke shows the significance of interpersonal relationships. Jesus interacted with real people who had real needs in a real way. Whether the guards, his mother or the criminals, Jesus was relationally focused on real life. Jesus had everything under control even in and through his sacrificial giving of his very life for you, me and all humanity. We are to make visible to the world the way of Christ. Luke 23:42 reads, “Then he [one of the criminals] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He [Jesus] replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’”[2]

We need a radical change in our understanding and experience of giving and loving, of being church. Christ the King Sunday gives us that courage. Christ the King Sunday boldly ends the Christian year by pointing to the fact that God’s reign is real. Thom Rainer writes, “The church must admit and confess its dire need. The church must pray for wisdom and strength to do whatever is necessary. The church must be willing to change radically. That change must lead to action and an outward focus.”[3] In order to forge this future, we must be a willing people as congregants and leaders to place service above self.

I pray that each one of us… admit and confess the need for a change of mind and heart about the purpose of being a Christian and a participant in the church; recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community; let go of the past as hero; build Geneva Presbyterian Church into a community of faith that looks like the community; focus the church’s generosity outwardly for the sake of others; make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community (ies); practice the Great Commission; be motivated and guided by God’s ways and will not by preferences; value a long tenure for your pastor; make prayer a priority, both personally and corporately; have a clear purpose of being church not going through the motions of church; and be a good steward of our church campus without neglecting God’s mission through it.

The time is now to love God and others. The time is now to clearly define who we are as a church. The time is now to create worship, education, service, fellowship, giving, funding and staffing models for the people and church we need to become. The time is now to make radical changes to be a “service above self” presence of God’s love in our communities.

Now is the time. Geneva is changing and we want and need you to be a participant in what God is doing. Tithe your cognitive, affective, physical, spiritual and financial resources from your life wallet and participate. Live into the legacy, the legacy of service above self. It’s the way of Jesus.

[1]Lee Eclov, in the sermon “Blasphemy!” as found on PreachingToday.com.

[2]In all three sections of textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of D. Cameron Murchison, Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Song-Mi Suzie Park, L. Julianna M. Claassens and Carlton J. “Cobbie” Palm in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 503-505, 505-506, 495-497, 497-499, 507-509 and 509-510.

[3]Thom S. Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 95.

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