I Want to Be Great

Let’s be honest here. I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I’ve lived most of my life. That’s not what I see happening in much of our country. That’s probably not what most of us were told or taught growing up. Sure, we might have heard that verse in Sunday school or church and even agreed with it, but then Monday came. 

For most of us, I suspect, Monday greatness is about being number one, a winner, a success. It’s about power, control, wealth, fame, reputation, status, and position. Have you ever seen the losing super bowl team dancing around Monday morning with two fingers in the air shouting, “We’re number two, we’re number two?” Probably not and you probably never will. Can you imagine a political slogan about making America last or a servant of other countries? And who wants to be the servant of all anyway? That’s for the poor and uneducated, minorities or foreigners, and those we can get away with paying less than a living wage. At least that’s often how it works today. Being last and servant of all is not what we usually strive for. That’s not the greatness to which we aspire.

If being great, holding the number one position, means being last of all and servant of all, then we have completely misunderstood what greatness is really about. And the disciples don’t understand greatness any more than we do. 

“What were you arguing about along the way?” Jesus asks them. “But they were silent for they had argued with one another who was the greatest.” Jesus didn’t get an answer to his question, only silence. It was the silence of having been caught, found out. Jesus isn’t asking for his sake but for theirs. He seems to have already known what they were arguing about. 

Their argument happened on a public road, out in the open. His question, however, is asked in the privacy and interior space of a house. This is about more than a change in physical location. Jesus is moving the conversation inward. He’s not gathering information for himself but inviting the disciples’ self-reflection on what it means to be great. He’s presenting the disciples with an image and the reality of their better selves, and he’s doing so for us too. 

Jesus is not saying that we should not or cannot be great. He never says that. Rather, he is asking us to reframe our understanding of greatness.

What does it mean and look like for you and me to be great in today’s world? That’s the question.

Jesus answers that question by taking a little child in his arms and saying to the disciples, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

I want us to be careful here. Jesus does not say that greatness is in being a child and he doesn’t say that greatness is in being childlike. Greatness is in welcoming the child. 

Now that doesn’t sound too difficult or challenging. Who wouldn’t welcome a little child? But Jesus isn’t talking about the child. He’s talking about what the child represents. We’ve so romanticized and sentimentalized children and childhood in today’s culture that it can be difficult to understand what Jesus is getting at. 

The child is a symbol for something else. The child is a symbol of vulnerability, powerlessness, and dependency. The child in Jesus’ day had no rights, no status, no economic value. The child was a consumer and not a producer. Greatness, Jesus says, is in welcoming and receiving into our arms one like this, regardless of his or her age. 

Greatness is found not in what we have accomplished and gained for ourselves but in what we have done and given to “the least of these” (Mt. 25:40), the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned; the symbolic children in each of our lives. Think about a family member or a nurse’s aide who bathes, changes, and cares for the elderly, the sick, the dying; she or he is a great one. I can’t help but think about the members of our Open Table ministry and how week after week they meet with and invest themselves in the life of another; they are great ones. 

Greatness never puts itself in a position of superiority over another. It is not about me; my nation, my tribe, my people, my religion, my politics, my bank account, my house, my job, my accomplishments, my reputation, my status. Our greatness is revealed in our service and care of others regardless of her or his ability or willingness to pay, repay, or return the favor. 

When Jesus talked about loving others even when they don’t love you (Lk. 6:32), doing good to those who do not do good to you (Lk. 6:33), lending without expectation of repayment (Lk. 6:34), and inviting to supper those who cannot invite you back (Lk. 14:12), he was describing greatness. 

Greatness comes to us when we share with others who have nothing to share with us. Think of the young boy who shared his five loaves and two fish with 5000 people who contributed nothing but their hunger (Jn. 6:9). He was great. Last week I sat in a meeting with ten or twelve people gathered around a table at the food pantry listening to them discuss how they could better feed the hungry in Uvalde. They are the great ones.

Greatness comes when we forgive one who has neither asked for our forgiveness nor changed his or her behavior. Those who refuse to carry bitterness or envy toward another are great. When we respond to the needs of others, when we refuse thoughts and actions of hatred or prejudice then greatness comes. Our refusal to objectify the opposite sex or to join in jokes about minorities or foreigners is an act of greatness. When we overcome fear, tear down walls, and make room for one who is different, vulnerable, in need, then we are great.

Last week I heard Monica, one of the children in our school, pray that we would be kind to each other. She is on her way to greatness. 

Greatness is not something to be achieved or earned. It is a quality that arises within us when our lives are in balance and we step into our better selves. That’s the life Jesus offers us. That’s the life I want to live. I want to be great, don’t you? This kind of greatness happen in the simple, ordinary, and mundane. It often goes unnoticed and unnamed but its there. Greatness is always a choice set before us.

You know what day tomorrow is, right? It’s Monday. Jesus will set Monday’s child before us. And Monday greatness will tempt and call us. But there is another greatness, the greatness of the last and the greatness of the servant of all.

I wonder who the child is that Jesus will set before us. I wonder which greatness you and I will choose.

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Marching On

2 Chronicles 20:14-22

New International Version

14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.See the source image

20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendour of his[a] holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
In paths He has marked for my feet;
I’ll follow the light of His word,
Nor shrink from the dangers I meet.
His presence my steps shall attend,
His fullness my wants shall supply;
On Him, till my journey shall end,
My unwavering faith shall rely.

Chorus
I’ll go (I’ll go,) I’ll go in the strength,
I’ll go in the strength of the Lord,
I’ll go, (I’ll go,) I’ll go in the strength,
I’ll go in the strength of the Lord.

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
To work He appoints me to do;
In joy which his smile doth afford
My soul shall her vigour renew.
His wisdom shall guard me from harm,
His power my sufficiency prove;
I’ll trust His omnipotent arm,
And prove His unchangeable love.

I’ll go in the strength of the Lord
To conflicts which faith will require,
His grace as my shield and reward,
My courage and zeal shall inspire.
Since he gives the word of command,
To meet and encounter the foe,
With his sword of truth in my hand,
To suffer and triumph I’ll go.

Showing Hospitality

Hebrews 13 New International Version

Concluding Exhortations

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”[a]

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?

Or as the King James Bible puts verse two

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares

Have you ever had a stranger come to your door and let him or her in and shown them hospitality to them.

In my case it’s quite often workmen for our local housing partnership. You never know You or I may have let ‘Angels in’ with some of these strangers

Having said that, nowadays we have to be careful who we let in to our homes

If they are workmen we should always make sure they carry an identity badge.

We must also put our trust in God in times like this.

Saved from Sin

John 3

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.See the source image

This morning I was reminded of an old chorus I used to sing in Sunday school many moons ago, I was even reminded of the actions as i watched it on you tube.

As I am talking about being saved, the chorus that came to mind was,

Running over, running over
My cup is full and running over
Since the Lord saved me
I’m as happy as can be
My cup is full and running over

The Lord’s Children

Matthew 19:14 New International Version

The Little Children and Jesus

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

I bring to you today what has to have been one of the first hymns I learned at Sunday School.

A simple prayerful hymn with an invitation for children even adults who don’t know Christ as their Saviour to come to him.

GENTLE Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child,
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to thee.

2 Fain I would to thee be brought,
Gracious Lord, forbid it not;
In the Kingdom of thy grace
Give a little child a place.

3 Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb,
In thy gracious hands I am;
Make me, Saviour, what thou art,
Live thyself within my heart.

4 Lamb of God, I look to thee,
Thou shalt my example be;
Thou art gentle, meek and mild;
Thou wast once a little child.

5 Now I would be as thou art;
Give me an obedient heart;
Thou art pitiful and kind,
Let me have thy loving mind.

6 I shall then show forth thy praise,
Serve thee all my happy days;
Then the world shall always see
Christ, the holy child, in me.

Just an average Friday

Dear Sister

It’s only 9:45 AM- what will the day hold?

I forced myself to get out of bed at 7:30 this morning. I have standing plans with Sara O. to go to a local park that is wooded with trails, right here in the middle of our town. It is nice. It is like being out of town — out in the mountains or something. Anyway, our commitment last week was to make it a regular occurrence on Friday mornings: to meet at church and drive over together at 8am.

I thought I better call her first before heading out. Good thing. She didn’t realize it was already Friday and, although up and mulling around her house, she was not dressed and ready to go yet. But we made it.

It is so nice to walk the trails. Most are paved, and some are gravel. There are little bridges to cross…

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