OUR STORY, JOSEPH’S STORY
MT 27:57-60a (Part 1)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
For September 26, 2004, AM

In October 1997 a missions revival exploded among us at Second. I was atop a mountain in China, upset with God, nervous, scared, wanting to be anywhere else in the world, when the Lord lit the missions flame in my heart.

I later asked prayer warrior Randy Sprinkle, “Why did revival come to me when I was showing such little faith?” He immediately responded, “It was the only time in your life you had been forced to depend entirely on God.”

What happened to me on the China mountain sparked plenty of fuses and kindling God had prepared back home. A group of 100, called the World Viewers, had worked tirelessly through Spring and Summer 1997 developing a workable missions strategy for Second. The result was a “World View Document” our church adopted in August 1997.

All was in place and ready for revival to fall. Pastor had been touched in China. God’s people, the World Viewers, had studied His Word, and latched on to Acts 1:8. Then, as the verse says would happen, the Holy Spirit came upon us.

For five years, Missions was our sole obsession. We ate it, drank it, slept it, did it. Like all revivals, ours began to wane. We can’t live in the scorching white hot heat of God’s glory forever. Our motivation to live for God has to be Him, not adrenalin. The time came to set in place mechanisms which would maintain the revival’s influence long-term.

We enlisted Missions staff, sent people on trips, had missionaries called out, and asked all Sunday School classes to do mission projects in Springfield, in Missouri, in the USA, and around the world. The results continue to stagger.

In the last two years, as we have been returning to a more normal spiritual experience in our church life, we have sought to discern what comes after revival. We needed to find the next step, less exciting, but not less important, than the missions revival itself.

My personal search for what was next for Second was anchored in three deeply held convictions. First, our best days are yet ahead of us. God always wants to take us higher. Second, our task was not to be invented, but discovered in the Bible. Third, our future direction would be easy to articulate. The purpose of a church should be understandable by the old, the young, adults, infants, college graduates, illiterates. God’s agenda is never complex or complicated.

Best to come, Bible, Simple ( while these were guiding my search, I read Rick Warren’s quote, “A great church makes a great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission.” God used this statement to crystalize my thoughts.

The great commandment, love God first and others second, and the great commission, win the lost, perfectly sum up what God expects from believers. I initially summarized these expectations as holiness, ministry, and missions, but then remembered having been taught that verbs are power words in the English language. Thus, the nouns were changed to the verbs worship, serve, and go.

To each of these three, our staff later added a brief explanation. Worship, love Jesus more. Serve, share Jesus’ compassion. Go, take Jesus everywhere.

This threefold formula has stood test after test these past two years. “Worship, Serve, Go” is a good slogan for Conventions, local churches, Bible studies, small groups, families, and each believer. The threefold challenge puts groups and individuals on the same page, all aspiring to worship, serve, and go.

This lesson emphasizes part two of the great commandment, the need to serve, specifically by giving through our Faith Commitment Offering. Henry Blackaby suggests Joseph of Arimathea is a wonderful example of serving by means of giving.

Joseph’s story is in Matthew 27:57-60a. “When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph came, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then Pilate ordered that it be released. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean, fine linen, and placed it in his new tomb, which he had cut into the rock” (Holman).

We always deem Joseph’s merciful deed a kindness to God. Surely the Father was pleased with His Son receiving a much deserved decent burial.

The deed was a gift also to the disciples. After the crucifixion, had no one come forward, Jesus’ body would have been taken to Gehenna, the city garbage dump, where fires never went out, and worms never died, a place so terrible that Jesus used it as the ultimate earthly example of what Hell is like.

What could the disciples do to honor Jesus’ body? Nothing. As poor, uninfluential fishermen, their only prospect was to wait till the body was dragged in humiliation to the garbage heap, and then hope they could retrieve the corpse before it was burned or eaten by dogs, vultures, and worms.

In this desperate moment, the spotlight suddenly shined on a rich politician, Joseph of Arimathea, who believed in Jesus, but secretly, due to fear of his peers.

As a Jewish leader, Joseph had to be a tither. But his claim to fame is the extra “above and beyond” offering he gave here. We ask you to tithe to our church’s general budget. Faith Commitment Offering is an “above and beyond” gift.

Had Joseph not responded aright, had he not given at this crucial, specific moment, he would have been forgotten, we would not know he existed.

Joseph’s generous deed is recorded in all four Gospels. Why? First, the Holy Spirit inspired writers to record this story of kindness to God’s Son, who deserved it. Second, the writers were deeply touched and blessed by the incident.

Without Joseph, Jesus’ body would have been further desecrated. The disciples could not gain entrance to Pilate. Joseph’s wealth got him in.

The disciples had no influence to gain possession of the body. Joseph’s prestige enabled him to take it.

The disciples were poor. They owned no graveclothes. Joseph provided clean, fine linen.

The disciples had no burial plot for their beloved’s remains. Joseph had spent a lot of money and time digging out of solid rock a new tomb for himself.

God blessed the disciples through Joseph. How relieved they must have been. Somebody cared. Somebody came through in a pinch. Somebody gave.

God blessed the disciples through Joseph, and wants to bless others through us. Our Faith Commitment Offering enables us to do this. Will we respond?

Half a million dollars is a lot of money. With it you have accomplished much for the Lord and for others. Here are a few pictures of what your Faith Commitment Offerings have done:

In Manzanillo, Mexico:
Paid for Teddy Bears,
purchased ESL materials,
bought craft materials for children,
conducted intercultural neighborhood Bible clubs,
helped support our church missionaries to Manzanillo, Bill & Vicki Scott.

In Colima distributed materials house to house. Seven have been baptized as a result.

In the Big Country paid for Gospel materials to be backpacked into remote Bell villages where the Gospel has never been heard among the unreached people group adopted by our church in 1997.

In Panama paid for Gospel of John distribution with our own missionaries, the Bielinski’s.

In Nicaragua:
Bought and sent materials
to build houses for victims of hurricane Mitch.
Before you gave, people lived in tents made from black plastic. I’ve been there and seen the squalor.

Now children have a good, safe environment to play in, and a place to call home.

In Tanzania, Africa:
Gave sight to the blind by purchasing implants for eye surgery. Every patient we helped came in legally blind, and left seeing.
Bought sterilization equipment for a hospital,
dug new wells to improve the water supply. I will never forget seeing a woman digging in a dry river bed for water. Almost every time I see rain, I think of thirsty Tanzania.

In Nebraska:
Bought Christmas gifts for Winnebago children, who would have had no Christmas otherwise,
Laid new floor in Fellowship Hall at Primera Iglesia Bautista, South Souix City,
painted a church garage in Schuyler.

In Woodinville WA filled gift bags with coffee and goodies to introduce our church plant to the community.

In Chicago:
Remodeled an old warehouse for use by Evening Star Baptist Church,
built for the homeless new bathrooms,
and installed new showers.

In Kansas City stocked the food pantry at Forest Avenue Family Shelter for abused women and children.

In Romania:
Supported House of Hope for homeless girls, saving them from prostitution,
provided furniture and supplies for a nursing home, in a place where the elderly are often neglected,
provided a banquet for senior adults who have never eaten in a restaurant, that’s right, never!
repaired musical instruments that have been used by a church band since WWI,
gave fresh fruit to people who almost never receive such a delicacy.

At Hickory Hills Middle School:
Helped over 600 people work together to accomplish in one day the school’s 5 year maintenance plan,
enabled a father and son to spend time together taping walls so others could paint,
helped many plant shrubs in the rain.

In Springfield Public Schools:
Bought books to be given out free at Book Festivals,
bought balloons to help us clown around with children, to bring a ray of sunshine into their lives,
bought supplies to paint faces at a Book Festival. The smiles say it all.

At Kids Club in the Park, made possible a Science Exhibit.
.
At Convoy of Hope:
Enabled our 5th and 6th graders to prepare and serve 17,000 hot dogs to the poor,
helped provide 40,000 pounds of food to the poor,
gave away over 9,000 cups of soda and water in Jesus’ name,
provided 650 haircuts.

This week you will receive a letter from me abut our Faith Commitment Offering. We will bring our commitments to the altar next Sunday morning. Remember, your gift will make a huge difference.

Many people are in as helpless a plight as were the disciples. Children have no influence with authorities. The sick have no provision. The poor have no possessions. The persecuted have no power.

6