We live in a broken world. And the problems that we see all around us — in our neighborhoods, in our schools, on TV, in our families, at work — can seem so overwhelming. What can I do? What can the Church do? What difference can one person or one congregation really make?
As a body of Christian disciples we must hold fast to the conviction that the answer to all the world’s problems is Jesus Christ.
And if we truly believe that, then the ministries we perform should be done in the name and in the manner of Jesus. Every good work done, every sermon preached, every tear wiped away, every bag of groceries delivered, every backpack dropped off, and every prayer lifted must be completely drenched in the name of Christ. Jesus is the very center of all of creation. His life and death and resurrection are the events around which everything else in history and in the future revolve. Everything that happened before Jesus’ incarnation pointed to his coming. And everything since his resurrection looks back on those history-altering events. We recognize the salvation we have in Jesus. We realize the extent of God’s mercy and grace in redeeming us while we were unworthy sinners. And it’s that awareness that brings us to our knees in humility and gratitude and motivates us to show that same mercy and patience and love to the world. Everything we do and say, everything we have, and everything we are is a direct result of God’s work through Jesus. And our everyday ministry to others is our response. To paraphrase D. A. Carson, if our ministry is based only on positive thinking, managerial skills, or emotional experiences and not with the proclamation of Jesus Christ, it’s focused on the wrong things and ultimately won’t be blessed by our God.
And it’s not enough to perform ministry in Jesus’ name. Our works of love and grace must also be done in the manner of our Savior. We are called to live our lives with Christ, not as a performance for Christ. Jesus was and is motivated by his love for all of humanity and for the fulfillment of God’s perfect will. Sacrificially putting others ahead of ourselves is the manner of Jesus. On that last day, many will say “Lord, Lord” to a God who doesn’t recognize them. Without proper motives, our works are as meaningless as a “noisy gong or clanging cymbal.”
Of course, this goes against our human nature. Jesus’ ministry of preaching and healing ultimately led to his torturous death. The image of the cross and all the cross conjures up in sacrifice and suffering doesn’t appeal to most of us. But it’s that image that should be at the very center of everything we do in his name.
And I come back to the backpacks.
This morning we delivered between 160-175 backpacks to Walker Creek Elementary to be given to the one-quarter of the students there who are economically-disadvantaged. The outpouring from our Legacy Church family of donations of backpacks and school supplies and of those volunteering their time and services to that school has been inspirational. And I praise God for the wonderful ways he’s going to use those backpacks and the relationships we’re developing over there for the good of his children and his Kingdom.
As we adopt Walker Creek and begin to share our lives with theirs, let’s maintain our focus on Christ.
The saving event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is not just a far-off moment in time or a mechanical fix to some remote technical problem with the world. The Jesus-event is breaking news. It is happening around us and within us, rescuing what was lost and restoring what was broken. The key to peace in the world is reunion with God. And it is towards that end that he is working — even through us.
“Number 17 in your program, Number 1 in your heart….”
There are 17 more days until football season. And we’re at the point in the countdown that brings us 13 quarterbacks in a row beginning with the all-time greatest football player to ever wear #17, the Danderoo, Dandy Don Meredith. He was a two-time All-America quarterback at SMU, finishing 3rd in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1959 behind Billy Cannon. And when he left the Hilltop, he was the all-time leading passer in college football history with a 61% completion rate.
In that summer before the Dallas Cowboys had even settled on the name “Cowboys,” Tex Schramm engineered a trade with the Chicago Bears that gave them the right to draft Meredith. It was mainly a move to keep the AFL Dallas Texans from drafting the home town hero. And so Dandy Don actually was signed to the Dallas Rangers. But he became the undisputed leader of the Next Year’s Champion-era Cowboys teams from 1960-68.
In his nine years with the team, Meredith racked up over 17,000 yards passing — still good enough for #4 all time in team history — and 135 passing TDs. His 460 yards passing against the 49ers in 1963 still stands as a Cowboys team record as does his 95 yard touchdown pass to Bob Hayes against the Redskins in 1966. He won three division titles with Dallas and took the Cowboys to two heart-breaking losses against the Packers in two NFL Championship Games. He was the NFL MVP in ’66 and represented those early Cowboys in three Pro Bowls.
He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame and the Cowboys Ring of Honor. And he needled Howard Cosell and sang “Turn Out the Lights” during the never-to-be-experienced-again glory days of Monday Night Football.
Catching up from the weekend, #18 is Elisha Archibald Manning III. Archie Manning wore #18 at Ole Miss where his 56 career touchdowns and 31 TD passes in 1969 are still school records. He racked up an amazing 540 yards passing and rushing in a game against Alabama in ’69. He finished in the top four in voting for the Heisman in ’69 and ’70. And he’s still heralded as the greatest athlete in Ole Miss history. The speed limit signs outside and throughout the entire Ole Miss campus in Oxford post the legal limit at 18-miles-per-hour in his honor.
As the Saints number one pick in 1971, the number two pick overall, he suffered 337 sacks and 156 interceptions in eleven seasons. And as awful as those teams were, Manning still was named the NFL MVP in ’78. He finished up his career with the Oilers and Vikings. And now he spends his free time making more money filming one commercial with his sons Payton and Eli than he made in a full season in the NFL.
Charlie Joiner gets an honorable mention at #18. But the nod goes to Manning.
#19 is a non-debatable no-brainer: the great Johnny Unitas. “The Golden Arm” won just 12 games in four years at Louisville and was cut by the Steelers just weeks after they drafted him in the ninth round in 1955. He wasn’t smart enough, they said. The Colts picked him up as a free agent and the rest is history.
In his first start as a Colt he suffered a fumbled snap and an interception. But he went on to collect two NFL Championships and one Super Bowl victory, to appear in ten Pro Bowls and win the MVP award in three of them, and be named the NFL MVP three times. When he left the league after a one-year stint with the Chargers in 1973 he held 22 NFL records and had thrown at least one touchdown pass in 47 straight games.
Here’s that passage from Steven L. Carter’s book Integrity that I used in yesterday’s sermon on Christian leadership from 1 Thessalonians 2. Several of you have asked for it as a great summary of what integrity looks like in daily life.
“Integrity requires three steps: 1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; 2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and 3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong. The first criterion captures the idea of integrity as requiring a degree of moral refectiveness. The second brings in the ideal of an integral person as steadfast, which includes the sense of keeping commitments. The third reminds us that a person of integrity is unashamed of doing the right.”