Whom Do You Serve?
What a summer we’ve had! As I wrote to our parents a month ago, this really has been a “summer of scandal,” hasn’t it? In Major League Baseball, a former Most Valuable Player has been suspended for using performance enhancing drugs and then lying about it. Not to be outdone, a former college football All-American and NFL superstar has been indicted on multiple murder charges. And, finally, the leading candidate to be the next Mayor of the nation’s largest city (New York) is at the center of an investigation into inappropriate text messages. All of that in one two-month period. Wow!
As is our custom every year, we have an essential question this year that serves as our theme for our work together in the year ahead. At its heart, this year’s essential question has something to say related to all three of these incidents that I’ve just mentioned. When we ask, “Whom do I serve,” we are really asking about what we value or what we think is really important in our lives. In fact, we might even rephrase the question by asking, “What do you truly value?”
- The baseball player who is cheating himself and his teammates by using illegal drugs might answer that he values or serves fame and fortune or even “being the best” in his profession . . .
- The football player who seems to have no regard for others’ lives might answer that he values his own life and livelihood more than the lives of those around him . . .
- Finally, the politician who seems to think that he can get away with anything and not get caught in his poor behavior might say he values power and notoriety and “being in the spotlight” so much that he’s willing to do anything to stay there . . .
These are all obviously suppositions, or guesses, about the motivations of others related to whom they serve or what they value. Sometimes, suppositions can be accurate, but sometimes they can be really off track. With that in mind, I decided to reflect on my own life and my own values, with which I live and grapple every day . . .
- First, I have to admit that I really value being “DR.” Carleton. I worked really hard in school for a very long time. I studied for and completed many, many tests; did my fair share of research; and even wrote a book before I sat in front of five accomplished and intelligent college professors and answered some very tough questions. At the end of all that, I got two things that I’m extremely proud of: one was a pretty snazzy robe that I like to wear around my house and office from time to time, which tells everybody who sees it that I’m “DR.” Carleton . . . the other was a really big diploma that I have hanging in my office to commemorate my accomplishment. If you look really closely at the diploma, you’ll see something interesting related to our conversation this morning: the diploma was conferred “in the year of our Lord.” Interesting, don’t you think? Keep that phrase in mind as we move to the next item that I really value . . .
- Second, if I’m honest with myself and with others, I like having money in my pocket. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not so in love with money that I’m willing to do anything to get it, but I do like to have a little cash in my wallet so that I can do the things that I like to do. In fact, when I was nine years old and cutting my grandmother’s grass for five dollars every week, I would ask her to pay me in $1 bills so that my wallet would be so thick I could FEEL the money in it ALL THE TIME! Now, there’s a part of this money that I’d like to call your attention to as well: each bill has the words, “In God we Trust” on it. Also interesting . . . Are you starting to see a pattern?
- Lastly, I really do value this school . . . part of this feeling is certainly because it is my job to value it (I am the Headmaster, after all), but part of this value resides in the fact that I spend a great deal of time thinking about this place and trying to figure out ways to make it even better than it is right now. So, it’s safe to say that I value it for a variety of reasons—some of which are probably good, but some are probably a little worrisome . . . consider that I have ten Polo shirts and at least as many t-shirts with the PS logo, and you sort of get the picture. With that “value” in mind, consider our School’s motto as a last point of reference for my talk this morning: “As Children of God at Presbyterian School, we respect ourselves, each other, and the environment.”
Every day we are given choices among competing values, and we are asked which of them truly define our lives—which of them will indicate whom or what we serve. So, when I look back over three things that I really value, if I’m being careful I might notice that God is in the background of each of them, which is unfortunate, because if I’m looking more carefully, I should notice that He is actually at the foundation of each and every one of them.
- The time I spent working on and earning my education is governed by a calendar that has at its foundation an acknowledgement of God so significant that it appears on my diploma . . .
- The currency that we exchange in this country, which has become the most valuable currency in the world, has a phrase on each and every piece that places trust and respect in that same God . . .
- The School at whose opening we find ourselves today calls not only on this same Lord each and every day but also welcomes His church into partnership with families as we seek to support and educate each and every one of you.
Whom do you serve? What do you value? Is God in the background of these answers, or is He at the foundation?
Consider Psalm 100 as you think about the answers to these questions from your own lives:
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His loving kindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Thank you all for coming this morning; it is my pleasure to announce the official opening of the 2013-14 school year. May God richly bless us as we do His work together . . .
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