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Close the opportunity gap

February 17, 2023

Daily Scripture

Mark 10:13-16, Luke 9:46-48, Matthew 25:37-40

Mark 10

13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15 I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.

Luke 9

46 An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. 47 Aware of their deepest thoughts, Jesus took a little child and had the child stand beside him. 48 Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me. Whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever is least among you all is the greatest.”

Matthew 25

37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The church’s fourth 2030 goal says we will work to “break the cycle of poverty for children in Kansas City, giving each child the possibility of attaining a future with hope.” Scholar Craig Keener noted that the culture around Jesus thought even less of children than ours: “Status was a preeminent concern in ancient society; children had none.” * We say nicer things about children, but (especially when they are not our own offspring) we too often ignore forces that deny them equal opportunity in life.

  • Jesus did not specifically mention children in the Matthew 25 passage, but he clearly signaled the importance of caring for all who are hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick and in prison. And he added that whatever we do to help “one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,” we do for him. Now as then, children are often “the least of these.” How does Jesus’ parable, and his example in the Mark and Luke passages, shape Resurrection’s fourth goal?
  • Valuing children takes much more than cute photos and fuzzy emotions. His disciples argued about who was greatest (i.e. had the most status). Jesus told them not to focus on status, but on who needs you most. In what ways does that principle point to giving more children opportunity for a full life? How can living beyond our human wish for power, wealth and status help Resurrection (and each of us individually) serve and care for the many needs of people, especially children?

Lord Jesus, you chose to offer blessings with your words, particularly to those who most needed caring and appreciation. Teach me how to choose to do the same. Amen.

GPS Insights

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe & his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 & were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew & Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

As we consider this week’s theme of vision statements & looking toward an improved future, I began reminiscing about our Men’s Group & how we got started 21 years ago.

We were an offshoot of the Pathfinder Sunday School class, which was a group of couples just starting their families. Pathfinders met Sunday mornings in the basement below what is now the Student Center. (Keeping with the SUV theme, I suppose today we’d be called the Yukon or Rav4 class.)

Our class members were rather prolific. During an 18-month stretch, we prepped meals to celebrate & support the arrival of 21 babies. (The hallway outside our room resembled the stroller parking lot at Disney World’s Peter Pan’s Flight.)

The guys in our group were feeling a tad stressed, simultaneously trying to balance fatherhood, marriage, & career, so, since our wives were already involved in several groups at Resurrection, we thought maybe we could start a group just for the guys.

On a bitterly cold January evening in 2002, we developed a Vision Statement that would clarify our purpose, would help attract other guys to join our group, &, most importantly, would demonstrate to our wives that we weren’t gathering to just talk about sports. (Since this sports era was post-Brett & pre-Mahomes, it wasn’t that challenging to convince our wives of the sincerity of our purpose.)

After much discussion, we arrived at the following Vision Statement: “Allow God to use our small group of men to create a life in Christ in us & in those whom we influence.” Our goal was to emphasize that we would actively be open to God’s guidance, that we would strive to be transformed through our time together, & seek to be good Christian role models for our families & our community.

Aside: Vision Statements can be hard to create. An Optometrist Convention took forever picking between possible suggestions: “Okay. Which is better? A or B?” B? Okay. What about now? A or B? A? Okay. What about now…?”

We would meet twice a month at 8:30 p.m., so we wouldn’t cut into our parenting time, & we would rotate facilitators as we discussed books of the Bible & studies about fatherhood, marriage, workplace leadership, etc. Our first study was Richard Foster’s classic book, Celebration of Discipline. We used this book as the template for our group where we emphasized study, attending worship, & time in prayer. (During one Lenten season, we fasted for 24-hours prior to our meeting & would break the fast at the start of our gathering. Coincidentally, the punctuality of our attendees improved markedly.)

Aside: A Pastor was telling the kids gathered around him for the Children’s Sermon that he had been fasting from his wife’s meals on Wednesdays during Lent. A little boy piped up & said, “I don’t need to fast.” The Pastor, thinking this could be a powerful teaching moment, said, “Oh really? Why not?” The boy replied, “My Mom’s a good cook.”

Our theme verse was Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This verse reminded us that sharpening needs to be done regularly or else the tool will become useless, that sharpening can help correct imperfections & improve effectiveness, &, finally, that sharpening can’t be done alone – it requires assistance.

Our Pathfinders class eventually dissolved as many of our gang answered the call to volunteer in the nursery or in KidsCor, but our Men’s Group continues to gather. As our kids’ schedules/activities changed, we shifted our gathering time to 6:00 a.m. (That certainly didn’t eat into quality time with our teenagers.)

Aside: As one Lenten-focused Dad liked to say to his sons as his offspring arise at the crack of 11:00 on a Saturday morning, “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

So, what might this reminiscing mean for us today?

  • What are we doing to “sharpen” our faith? This Lenten season is the perfect time to make attending worship a priority or to set aside time for prayer or join a Small Group.
  • What if we created a Vision Statement for our faith walk? What would be some audacious goals we’d set for ourselves for the next year or 5 years or 10 years?
  • Finally, Resurrection has established a bold vision for 2030. These ambitions would be outlandish if the church was trying to do this alone. What are we going to do to help achieve these dreams?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to download the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” Of course, if I wanted to do this in 2002, I’d need to log onto my AOL account & set aside 13 minutes for the download. Considering how far we’ve come, it’s easy to get excited about the potential & possibilities for 2030. Let’s go!

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Craig S. Keener, comment on Luke 9:46-48 in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.