• Steven Marsh

The Unconditional Love of the Triune God Beckons Us To Serve–Love Makes Us Meaning Makers: a R

As we serve in God’s mission, our lives create meaning for others. That is we bring significance, importance and vision to others. You are a “meaning maker.”[1] Jelani Greenidge recounts the following:

Snicker all you want; Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck has heard all the jokes anyway. Not only is the performance coach, teacher, and mother unashamed of her name, but she’s continually refused to let the perceptions of others limit her ability to achieve. From the time she arrived at Cardinal Stritch University as a freshman, she vowed to earn both her master’s and her doctorate, longing for the day when people would call her “Dr. Marijuana Pepsi.” And after eight years of studying and commuting, she finally fulfilled that vow. “People make such a big deal out of it, I couldn’t get away from it,” Vandyck said in an interview. People judged her mother for the choice of name, but she credits her mom for raising her with a strong will and an inner drive for achievement. She recalls many times growing up when teachers would interrupt roll call to conduct impromptu interviews surrounding her name. “I’m sorry,” she replied once. “You didn’t ask anyone else that. Why are you asking me? My name is Marijuana, thank you.” Those experiences helped not only develop a firm spine and a sense of dedication, but in general pointed her toward a scholarly exploration of how African American students with uncommon names are treated in the classroom. Her doctoral dissertation was titled, Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions.” Anytime she enters a classroom, she can immediately grab students’ attention just by introducing herself. “Regardless of what they do, say, or what they’re trying to put in place,” she says, “You still have to move forward and succeed.”[2]

As Christians, God’s story is being written on our lives. We take that story to others, inviting all into the story. God’s story has embraced you and writes meaning making significance into your existence. And you in turn are a meaning maker to and with others.

The texts in Hosea 1:2-10, Luke 11:1-13 and Colossians 2:6-15 address the unique “meaning making” presence that Christians offer for the good of humanity; the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. Here’s the bottom line: Every breath we take. Every idea we share. Every move we make. Every conversation we have. Every relationship we engage…are meaning makers. Just like in Hosea’s day, our communities…our relationships are fractious. We have abandoned covenantal qualities of life and have adopted self-serving, exploitive and often violent behavior. In Luke, Jesus taught his disciples to pray as he prayed and to be each other’s keeper. In Colossians, Paul contends that there is a fundamental disjunction between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God. Paul is not categorically rejecting the validity of human wisdom; he is not anti-intellectual or anti-education. Human perspectives can only go so far, however. Take reconciliation. It is easier to think about than to experience. If we all share in the fullness of Jesus’ life and death, then we have no basis for competition with one another. Sharing in God’s life is for each one of us, all 7.1 billion on our planet. Yet, every one of us has cheated on God. Think of the ways we give our love, work and devotion to other things. Our infidelity manifests itself in any number of social ills.[3]

God is for us and not against us. As Christians, we must live the salvation message, in word and deed, for the sake of the common good. Claiming the power of God’s covenantal faithfulness, we must ourselves and invite others to say “Yes” to God’s unconditional love in and through Jesus Christ. Christopher Wright, citing the “Cape Town Commitment” in Christian Mission in the Modern World,writes,

…We respond to our high calling as disciples of Jesus Christ to see people of other faiths as our neighbours in the biblical sense. They are human beings created in God’s image, whom God loves and for whose salvation Christ died. We strive not only to see them as neighbours, but also to obey Christ’s teaching by being neighbours to them. We are called to be gentle, but not naïve; to be discerning and not gullible; to be alert to whatever threats we may face, but not to be ruled by fear.[4]

Covenantal relationships are possible. Hang in there. We are better together.

God’s unconditional love shapes our identity as it exposes selfishness. God’s unconditional love brings the presence of God near to us in all circumstances. God’s unconditional love motivates through authenticity, humility, integrity, sensitivity and obedience. Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. We are created to be “meaning makers.”

All people are on a quest for meaning. Be the best neighbors. God’s unconditional love beckons you to allow God to serve you and you in turn to serve others. You are loved by God. Be a “meaning maker.”

[1]For a thorough discussion of “meaning maker” see Rodger Y. Nishioka in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 280.

[2]Jelani Greenidge submitted to PreachingToday.com, Jenna Amatulli, “Woman Named Marijuana Pepsi Earns Ph.D. With Dissertation on Uncommon Names” as found in HuffPost (6-20-19).

[3]My thinking in this paragraph is corroborated by Ronald J. Allen, Emrys Tyler, R. Alan Culpepper, Stephen Farris, Scot McKnight and Joshua W. Jipp 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),180-182, 183-185, 194-195, 195-197, 190-192 and 192-193.

[4]John Stott and Christopher J. H. Wright, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 138.

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