Monday, October 21, 2013

A Life Observed

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
 by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8 NIV)

My wife and I had attended a church for three years, but never felt a part of the community.  Every week it felt like we entered the auditorium as strangers.  So we decided to try out a new church recommended to us by some of our students.  As we cautiously entered, an elderly man, slightly stooped at the shoulders, greeted us with a smile, a firm handshake and asked us our names.  At the time, we didn’t know anything about “Chief,” but were impressed by his friendly welcome.  The next week, and thereafter, he greeted us by name.  

As the months and years passed, we learned more and more about Chief and from him.  He had been a pastor for 42 years and had an earned doctorate in theology.  He was the author of several books.  And he and his wife prayed.  A lot.  Every morning of the week, they prayed together. One day for family; another day for friends; another day for those in pastoral ministry; another day for missionaries; and every Saturday, they prayed for by name all those listed in the church directory.  If we made a special prayer request, they prayed for it and then Chief would ask us for an update the next time we walked through the doors.  The last time I saw him, as he greeted us, he asked me about our ministry’s finances.  I had asked for prayer as our ministry was facing a financial crisis.  I told him money was beginning to come in.  He smiled and said he would keep on praying.

Yesterday, the church celebrated his 93 years of life, which ended in the flesh on Thursday after a massive stroke.  Throughout the service, what stood out was the humility of this man of God.  When we first met him, he was a greeter and for the longest time, that’s how we saw him because he never boasted about his life or his accomplishments.  And if not for his son-in-law, the pastor of the church, few would have known his dedication to prayer because he talked only in generalities about it.  And, like me, I am sure many people were surprised to hear the breadth of his accomplishments during his long life.  

Chief was the epitome of what Paul writes to the believers in Philippi.  He was a man of great stature and accomplishment, but was content to live out his remaining years as a church greeter, caring more about the needs of those who walked through the doors and through his life, than his own. As one person said at the memorial service, we learned more from observing Chief’s life than from any sermon, book, or course could teach us about having the mind of Christ.  

Today, may we learn from Chief’s example of what it means to think and live like Jesus.  For they both have left us an example that we might follow in their steps.  

© Jim Musser 2013

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