Successful Or Significant? - Rev. Kathleen H. Kilbourne

Successful Or Significant?
John 3:16-18
Rev. Kathleen H. Kilbourne
July 31, 2016

 Many years ago, there was a summer youth event at Junaluska utilizing the theme, “More than Words.” This theme was based on the scripture text that I want share with you today, Hear these words from I John 3:16 –18

We know love by this,that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

More than words – this really resonated with me then, and still does today. As we gather here today, I am convinced that we wrestle with the same question…

Do I want to be successful or significant? 

Struggle lies between: 
true service         vs.    Self - righteous service
anonymous        vs.    validation
quietly            vs.    temporary
lack of control        vs.    control
draws, bends, heals,      vs.    impressed w/big deal

Here these words from the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. And before you were born I consecrated you” So, before we begin to have a plan for our lives… God is saying… I got this…. yet our world bombards us from every direction that the goal is to be successful while God calls us to be significant.

You may be asking yourself, “Okay, so? Doesn’t success = significance? Or vice versa?”

Here’s a test that may help us see the difference:

Name the five wealthiest peoples in the world.

Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

Name the last five winners of the Miss America Contest

Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize

These are no second rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But after awhile, we put them on a shelf and they are forgotten.

Here’s another test – see how you do with this one:

List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

How did you do with this one? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

Jesus modeled significant servanthood

    -prepared - spent 30 years preparing for 3 years in ministry

                         spent time in prayer - 1. Entire night before choosing the twelve

                            2. 40 days and nights before he began his ministry

                            3. Entire night before he died

Jesus knew that there must be a time to listen and a time to serve

    -relationships - spent time building relationship with the twelve which empowered them to claim their gifts and change the world.

Helen Pearson, in her book Do What You Have the Power To Do,  stated

“Jesus was a member of the disinherited and not just one who ministered unto them. Jesus was a victim of oppression; his message of deliverance was not from one who stood outside the suffering but from one who was subject to it. The message of Jesus is specifically aimed at empowering the disinherited.” ( pg.17)

    - focused - He understood his call and his mission

        Jesus knew that by serving others God would be revealed

In order to serve, we must be vulnerable – Colossians 3:12-13 “Clothe yourself with – compassion, kindness, humility..” –where do you need to offer this? What relationships depend on you responding as Jesus would rather than how you feel? In this day of email and social media, we say and react to people and points of view as if we will never see them face to face. 

  • involves risk, involves being willing to be used – verse 13 “ Bear with one another, if anyone has a complaint against you, Forgive them!”  Forgive them! What? Because they deserve it? No, we must forgive because we have been forgiven by God. John 3:16.
  • we must also be willing to receive- every time I have ever set out to give to others, I end up being the one who receives the biggest blessing. Ever serve on a mission trip? Life changing!

Service strengthens our relationship to God - it is not doing God’s workfor  God it is participating with God 

Reality Check

  • God doesn’t need me to accomplish God’s purpose -  God could do it much moreefficiently without me - I need to serve so I can know God more intimately

Service is a privilege, a gift. Servanthood involves commitment.

Our days are full of promises that we must make and keep … commitments that have far reaching implications and sometimes the ability to step boldly forward and commit ourselves comes easily, but sometimes we back away and don’t do what we should – why is that?

We want to know the result.  We are afraid of what we cannot see.  Hear the promise of God from the Prophet Isaiah (42:16) 

    I will lead you in ways you have not seen on paths you have not known

I will turn the rough places into level ground. I will turn your darkness into light . These things I will do for you and I will never leave you alone.

Historians have long studied the life of Madame Curie for more than just the scientific discoveries that she made.  One wrote “The overriding fact about her life was that she had the capacity for total commitment to a goal even though she could not immediately see how it could be accomplished.  It seems that she believed that the ways and means always follow the commitment.”  One of her favorite quotes was “If it can be believed it can be done.”  Madame Curie lived out the promise of Isaiah.

Emily Prudden, lived in Connecticut back in the 1800’s – she became deaf at age 17, never married, raised her sister’s kids, suffered from crippling arthritis. She moved to Gastonia, near healing hot springs, in her mid 50’s – it would be okay for her just to pass her days away, right? No, this single, YANKEEwoman decides to start teaching children – black girls – how to read, and sew and cook so that they could get a job.  She believed that each life was important and could make a difference. This resulted in her efforts to start 15 schools in rural areas – mostly in Appalachia. As the schools became successful – self sustaining – she would give them to the Methodist Mission society and move on to start another one. Pfeiffer University United Methodist School, with thaw campuses and partnerships with two aeminaries, started as one of Emily’s schools near Lenoir, NC. I am an alumn and serve there as the Director of the program where Mari Ed is pursuing Professional UM certification in Youth Ministry and in Christian Education – because Emily lived out Isaiah 42 and lived a life that was “more than words.”

We can serve everyday right where we are.  Mother Teresa’s goal was not to change the world, but to touch each life that she could.  The poster in the Mother House which welcomes volunteers states:

You have come to serve Christ in the crippled, the sick and the dying.

We are happy and thankful that you have taken this opportunity to be a witness of God’s love in action.

Remember that it is Christ who works through us - we are merely instruments for service.

It is no how much we do, but how much love we put into the doing.

Serving as Jesus did is a matter of heart - I John 3:16-18. Love makes us available to serve.

For many, the only way they will ever see Jesus is through our lives and through our hands. 

Amen.