my own horn

January 18, 2018

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I’ve never felt particularly confident in front of high school students. And I’ve generally felt debilitatingly unconfident in front of middle schoolers. So when I gave what I thought was a pretty decent chapel talk in front of all our school’s secondary students yesterday, it seemed a bit of a personal milestone. One of the things that I find a bit frustrating, to my desire to mull over what is happening in my life, and to process significant events, is that the general pace of the world often feels so much faster than what I’d prefer . . . as if my personal internal clock is running on a perpetually low battery, so that I’m always silently pleading “Wait–don’t move on to the next thing just yet . . . I need to sit with this one first!”
That said, I’m going to take the liberty now to share my chapel talk here. I’m really doing this for myself, out of my own need to document my life. But of course, I don’t mind having readers out there, if this is of use to any of you ;-)
Here’s the talk . . .

Today I’m going to talk to you about finding joy in serving others. First I’d like for us to look at two passages in the Bible. Then I’m going to tell you a story, that you may remember a portion of from Mr. L’s chapel talk last semester.
But first, Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV):

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Last week we learned about why we can find joy in serving the Lord, and here we see how serving others is also serving the Lord. When you look into the face of another person, it’s as if you are looking into Jesus’ face as well. Wow! That’s quite a responsibility, isn’t it?

Let’s move on to another verse now, this one from Proverbs.
Proverbs 19:17 (NIV):

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Does this mean that we should do nice things for people so that we will get nice things in return? I don’t think this is necessarily what a “reward” is. God doesn’t just give us nice things—that’s not the point. God is about good things, and about goodness in our hearts.
Have you ever done something that you knew was right, and good, and known it with such confidence that it didn’t matter who saw you, or who told you it was good . . . you just felt that goodness inside of you? I think that’s the kind of reward God is talking about in verses like this one—the kind of reward that lasts a whole lot longer, and goes a whole lot deeper, than a plate of fried chicken, or a brand new iphone.

I promised you a story, didn’t I? Rewind many years to when I was little . . . we’ll have to go back a long time for that, considering my age ;-)

[I’m going to interrupt my own speech now, for brevity sake, and summarize what I said from here on out. I told them about my family, and about my father’s death. I told them about how Peter and I searched for the grave not long ago, as I blogged about in the previous post to this one. I also told them the bizarre “coincidence” of how my own family story paralleled that of another teacher here, as I blogged about two posts ago. I ended with this quote, from a book I’m currently reading, by Donald Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, 197)

God does not answer Job’s questions. It’s as though God starts off His message to the world by explaining that there are painful realities in life we cannot and will never understand. Instead, He appears to Job in a whirlwind and asks Job if he knows who stops the waves on the shores or stores the snow in Wichita every winter. He asks Job who manages the constellations that reel through the night sky.
And that is essentially all God says to Job. God doesn’t explain pain philosophically or even all its benefits. God says to Job, Job, I know what I am doing, and this whole thing isn’t about you.
Job responds, even before his health and wealth are restored by saying, “All of this is too wonderful for me.” Job found contentment and even joy, outside the context of comfort, health, or stability. He understood the story was not about him, and he cared more about the story than he did himself.

I ended by telling them that they too—each and every one of them—have a story. That we all have a unique set of gifts that make us perfectly suited to the unique call on our own lives. No one can tell us what that is: but we have access to the One who is willing to speak that into our lives.
So go out, and live your story. Get carried away in the wonder of something so much bigger and greater than you, and so much better than any story you could possible imagine for yourself!

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