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Paul’s Jesus-based “retirement plan”

November 26, 2021

Daily Scripture

Acts 20:22-35

22 Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. 23 What I do know is that the Holy Spirit testifies to me from city to city that prisons and troubles await me. 24 But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace.

25 “I know that none of you will see me again—you among whom I traveled and proclaimed the kingdom. 26 Therefore, today I testify to you that I’m not responsible for anyone’s fate. 27 I haven’t avoided proclaiming the entire plan of God to you. 28 Watch yourselves and the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as supervisors, to shepherd God’s church, which he obtained with the death of his own Son. 29 I know that, after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you and won’t spare the flock. 30 Some of your own people will distort the word in order to lure followers after them. 31 Stay alert! Remember that for three years I constantly and tearfully warned each one of you. I never stopped warning you! 32 Now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all whom God has made holy. 33 I haven’t craved anyone’s silver, gold, or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that I have provided for my own needs and for those of my companions with my own hands. 35 In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Acts recorded the Apostle Paul’s final, emotional talk to his friends who led the churches in Ephesus. His words show in clear (and challenging) ways how he defined “success,” and was planning for his “retirement.” He quoted Jesus as his model in verse 35 (the only direct quote from Jesus not in the four gospels). Paul’s “retirement plan” was about serving others. He didn’t believe he would finish his earthly work while still on earth, only when the day arrived that he was in God’s eternal kingdom.

  • Paul was going to Jerusalem to deliver a gift of funds he’d collected from Gentile Christians for Jewish Christians facing hardships. Think of a time when you gave something with an open heart (e.g. money, or maybe your time or listening caringly to someone hurting, etc.). Then recall a time when you bought an item you really wanted for yourself. Compare the two experiences. How lasting was the joy and well-being in each case?
  • As he left this group of church leaders, Paul said, “I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need” (verse 32, The Message*). In what ways has your perspective on your “needs” and “wants” changed since you’ve opened your life to Jesus? List, for your own reflection, some examples of ways your values have shifted over time.

Lord Jesus, your servant Paul knew that life is not about “silver, gold, or clothing” nearly as much as it’s about “helping the weak.” Infuse my life with that same wisdom and understanding. 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 commemorate Thanksgiving weekend, I recalled our family trip several years ago that included a stop in Plymouth, Massachusetts to visit Plymouth Rock, which has been a significant part of our folklore for over 280 years. With apologies to Elvis, one could make the case that it is truly America’s 1st rock star. The back-story for Plymouth Rock is as follows:

In 1741, the folks of Plymouth wanted to upgrade the wharf which would mean moving or covering up all the rocks on the shoreline. However, a 94-year-old codger named Thomas Faunce is upset that the history of the Mayflower’s landing was going to be destroyed. (Faunce’s father had arrived 2 years after the Mayflower & Faunce had known many of the original Mayflower passengers, so his testimony was considered to be, well, rock-solid.) So, Mr. Faunce requests to be taken to the shoreline to say good-bye. Here is the awesome description of the scene:

“A chair was procured, & the venerable Faunce was conveyed to the shore where a number of the inhabitants were assembled to witness the patriarch’s benediction. Having pointed out the rock directly under the bank of Cole’s Hill, which his father had assured him was that which had received the footsteps of our fathers on their first arrival, and which should be perpetuated to posterity, he bedewed it with his tears & bid to it an everlasting adieu.”1

Aside: “Bedew” is my new favorite word. Imagine the old country-western verse, “There’s a tear in my beer, just because you’re not here,” could now become “My brew is bedewed, just because I miss you.” (“I’ll take ‘Things I never expected to read in a GPS Insight’ for $500, Alex” – Editor. 2)

Well, the community was so moved by Mr. Faunce’s testimony, they built the wharf around the rock & the rock became part of the American Thanksgiving tradition.

Aside: Interestingly, some scholars now believe that the Mayflower was not the 1st ship of Pilgrims to reach the shoreline. Another ship arrived first, but the passengers were too shy/reticent to venture ashore. So, sadly, the introverted passengers of the Wallflower missed their chance at history.

Modern society has taken our Pilgrim friends to the proverbial woodshed for their traditions, beliefs, & values. This shouldn’t be too surprising; one would certainly hope our culture/society has advanced over the past 450 years. I would submit, though, that whatever progress we have made is due in part to our standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. So we might want to make sure that our judgment is accompanied with a bit of humility & grace, because while we may be tempted to smugly think our generation is the pinnacle of human civilization, rest assured our descendants will be judging us just as harshly for our own mistaken beliefs & values.

So, what might our friends from Plymouth Rock mean for us today?

  • The Pilgrims left the comforts of their “normal” in the Netherlands & bravely endured incredible adversity. The 100 passengers were originally spread out on 2 ships, but one of the ships sprung a leak, so they were crammed onto a merchant ship – The Mayflower. Due to the delayed departure, the Pilgrim’s journey across the Atlantic came in the midst of the stormy season, which caused rampant seasickness. Storms diverted the ship from the original destination, Virginia, to Massachusetts, & also meant the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth in November-–not ideal timing. Perhaps we could mimic the Pilgrims’ courage & get out of our comfort zone & boldly join the Caroling Blitz on December 8, or bravely try out the Open Table Advent Dinner Group, or daringly volunteer to serve as an usher/greeter for Christmas Eve services.
  • The Pilgrims took these unbelievable risks just so they could freely worship God as they desired. The Pilgrims had initially fled from England to the Netherlands to avoid being forced to join the Church of England. However, this was a temporary solution, so they soon made plans to go to the Americas. It’s quite humbling to read what the Pilgrims had to endure just to worship God. Maybe we could strive to copy a smidge of the Pilgrims’ faith & boldly attend church, even when it’s cold & rainy, make that small group/Sunday School gathering a priority, even when we are “too tired” or the Oscars are on, or volunteer on a Saturday at Faithworks, even when we could use that time to do the laundry. (Fact of Life: There’s always laundry to be done.)
  • Finally, even though nearly half of the Pilgrims would not survive the first winter, the Pilgrims still dedicated a day to offer Thanksgiving to God for His bounty & His blessings. Could we possibly match their commitment to God? Perhaps in the midst of our own challenges, we, too, can still offer our gratitude this day to God for His love, His sacrifice on our behalf, & for His many blessings.

In conclusion, let’s not take our Plymouth Rock friends’ courage for granite, but draw inspiration from their story to be boulder in our own faith, &, like them, offer gratitude to God for being our rock, our fortress, & our redeemer. 3

1History of the Town of Plymouth – James Thacher, 1832, Marsh, Capert & Lyon

2This is a reference to Alex Trebek & the Jeopardy TV game show.

3Paraphrase of Psalm 18:2.

© 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.

* Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress. Kindle Edition