Recipe for Greatness

What is it that makes people great?

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Recipe for Greatness

September 19, 2021*

By Pastor John Partridge

Proverbs 31:10-31                 Mark 9:30-37                         James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a

What does it take to be great?

We’ve heard of people like Alexander the Great, Peter the Great, Darius the Great (from the book of Daniel), Cyrus the Great (who captured Israel and carried them into the Babylonian captivity), there was Herod the Great in the time of Jesus, and Wikipedia says that there are 91 historical figures known as “the great” including kings, queens, military, religious, and mythological figures.  But obviously, even a list like that doesn’t include magicians that bill themselves that “the great” something-or-other, or a Muppet character like the ironically named, “The Great Gonzo.”  Nor do such lists include people that we would consider to be great in our more modern era, like General George Patton, President Eisenhower, Lee Iacocca, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, or anyone else.  Referring to people as “the great,” in any form other than stage acts, seems to have fallen out of favor. 

But what is it that makes people great?

In scripture, King Lemuel’s mother had a few ideas, she taught them to her son, and he recorded them in Proverbs 31 (which, incidentally, is the only chapter that we know was essentially written by a woman).  We often hear Proverbs 31 referred to as the description of the “ideal woman” but today I want to avoid any sexism that might be lurking there, and as we read, I want you to consider what it is, that made King Lemuel, his mother, and the writers of Proverbs think that such a person was so great. (Proverbs 31:10-31)

(The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him)

10 A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson.
22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.

If you were keeping track, let’s compare what we saw in this ideal human being and see if anything there can inform us about what it is that makes us think of a person as “great.”  As I read, I saw that she does good, is trusting, works hard, is a provider, a negotiator, is perceptive, understanding, generous, kind, well-prepared, well-respected, wise, her kindness is repeated a second time, faithful, godly, and excellent.  And as I think about that list, the thing that I notice is that nearly all those things are things that were done for the benefit of others and not for herself alone.

Let’s hold on to that idea and move on to the story in Mark 9:30-37, when several of Jesus’ disciples argue among themselves about which of them is the greatest.

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Despite Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, that we heard last week, the disciples still don’t understand what Jesus was talking about when he said that he was going to die, be buried, and rise again.  And not only did they not understand, after Jesus calls Peter “Satan,” they’re all afraid to even ask Jesus what he meant when he said those things.  It is no accident that just as we are told that they lack understanding, we also see them arguing about who is the greatest and, in pairing these two ideas, Mark emphasizes that the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus had been trying to teach them all along about greatness and humility either.  Injecting himself into their argument, Jesus explains, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” and, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Jesus not only emphasizes servanthood, but uses children, who had no rights, no property, and no voice as his example.  Children could offer them nothing in return.  Children had no political influence, and they were, perhaps, the epitome of people that might be described as “the least among us.”  And it is they that Jesus points to when he says that we welcome God when we care for, and about, them.  Jesus says that to be great, we must first be a servant of others, and that specifically means caring for those who have less than nothing.  Greatness is not about doing for “me” but about doing for others.

And just in case there is any doubt remaining in our minds, James piles on, repeats some of what we’ve already heard, and stirs in some additional clarity in James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a when he says:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? [that’s the same thing we heard in Proverbs, remember?] Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace forthose who make peace.

4:1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so, you commit murder. And you covetsomething and cannot obtain it; so, you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

James says that we should demonstrate our faith through the good works that we do, wisely, for others and that the opposite of greatness is envy and selfishness.  Boasting out of ego and bending the truth to our own purposes are the hallmarks of earthly, unspiritual, and devilish wisdom because envy and selfishness bring disorder and wickedness along with them.  But real wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, flexible, merciful, and produces goodness without partiality or hypocrisy.  James continues by saying that conflicts between believers are caused by the selfish desires within us.  Our selfish desires turn into covetousness and cause us to fight with others to get what we want. 

All of that explains why God doesn’t answer our prayers.  God ignores our requests because we ask for ourselves and not for others.  God knows that the things for which we are asking will be spent on ourselves, on our comfort, and our pleasure and for that reason God says “no” and our prayers remain unanswered.  Instead of living selfishly, James says, we should surrender our lives, and our prayers, to God and draw near to him. 

The key to greatness is… selflessness.

The recipe for greatness flies in the face of the “me” generation, it runs contrary to the message of “get rich quick,” or “greed is good,” or “what’s in it for me” and stands in utter opposition to the message of the prosperity gospel and countless televangelists.   The real recipe for greatness isn’t about the accumulation of stuff, or amassing piles of money, power, or influence.  The recipe for greatness is about humility, compassion, persistence, producing good fruit, impartiality, peace, mercy, gentleness… and love.

When we put the needs of others ahead of our own, when we dedicate ourselves to using our power to serve others and not ourselves, and when we lift our prayers to heaven on behalf of others, then God will hear our prayers, and only then… will we discover greatness.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Eulogy and Obituary for Jack Madison

Eulogy for Jack (John) L. Madison

August 09, 2018

by Pastor John Partridge

I only met Jack Madison a month ago and I have already learned what most of you have known for a long time.  Simply knowing Jack was enough to change your life.  It isn’t that Jack was some powerful force of nature that was impossible to ignore, in fact, it’s almost the opposite.  Jack Madison was the kind of a guy who influenced the people around him, and changed the world, without ever intending to do it.  But first, let’s go back to the beginning of the story.

Jack Madison was born on November 5th, 1928 to his mother, Florence and his father, John Madison.  Jack’s father had immigrated here from Romania and settled in Alliance and went to work in his wife’s family greenhouse business.  Their house, and the land upon which the greenhouses sat, became Jack’s home for nearly all his life.  But, at the age of 16, within a span of two months, Jack lost his mother to breast cancer and then his grandmother as well.  My guess is, that the response of the community and of his church, to that tragedy and their help in getting him through it, shaped Jack’s dedication to helping others and giving back to his community, whenever he could.

Jack went to school at Alliance High School and then to Mount Union, where he pledged the Sigma Nu fraternity.  During the Korean Conflict, Jack joined the Coast Guard, travelled to training in San Francisco, California, Atlanta, Georgia, and New London, Connecticut, before being stationed in New York City to assist with port security.  That stretch in the military was one of the only times that Jack ever lived outside of Alliance and even then, his character shone through.  Whenever anyone would say anything about his military service, Jack would almost always change the discussion to how proud he was of his brother’s service.

Jack and his brother Elvin were hardly ever apart.  At one point, Elvin came home with an old Model-T, and the two of them shared it and kept it running.  Jack eventually fell in love with Deon Russell, who became his wife and who worked as a nurse at Aultman Hospital.  Together they liked to ride their bicycles, enjoy the parks and the scenery around Alliance, and stay active.  To support his family, Jack started out working for the family greenhouse business, but eventually chose not to take over the business and do his own thing.  And, as everyone knows, whatever Jack set his mind to doing, he did it well and with dedication.  Jack worked for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for 40 years and eventually oversaw the financial operations for the racing tire division and later, for the blimp division.  His family told me the other night, that because of his position and his connections, the entire family always had Goodyear jackets, and hats, tickets to car races, and other cool stuff from the racing teams and at one point even got a blimp ride.

But Jack wasn’t just about the free stuff.  For Jack it was always staying faithful to the things that were important to him and doing whatever he could to help the people, and the community, around him.  The entire family remembers travelling with Jack on lots of vacations together, that Jack’s was the phone number to call if you ever needed anything, and that Jack was always the “go to” guy for anyone that needed someone to get things right.  For years, Jack balanced his sister-in-law’s checkbook because she needed the help and he knew how to do it.  Jack also did what he could to help his roommate, John, who he had come to know like family.

For fun, Jack played the saxophone, four types of saxophones, and I don’t mean once in a while, in the basement.  Jack had a band.  And it was good.  Jack played in an orchestra, or a dance band, with a bunch of folks that played Big Band music and they rehearsed every week and performed somewhere regularly.  I was told that more than once, as the family drove past the club that is now the “Dusky Armadillo” in Rootstown, Jack pointed it out and told them that his band had played there many times.  Even after the Big Band era had passed, Jack continued to play the sax in the Alliance City Band.

There were several things in Jack’s life that never changed, and first among them was his love for, and his dedication to, his family.  Jack was always close to his family, and he instilled that closeness in everyone else as well.  Jack was dedicated to Alliance High School, and to Mount Union, went to many of their games long after he had any family members in school, and, with a little help, still saw a game last year.  Jack was always dedicated to his community, and belonged to his church, and volunteered regularly, for 50 years.  But in all of those things, even though he usually persuaded everyone to do things his way, Jack was never overbearing.  Jack wanted to make sure that his home, his cottage at Lakeside, his community, and its parks, all looked good, but although you always knew that he was a man of his word, he never worried about who would get the credit.  And the other things that didn’t change were that Jack always wore his Mount Union windbreaker and baseball cap, and, absolutely, had to wear shoes that were black.  No fancy colors, not even gray.  Only black was acceptable.  And there was no point even arguing about it.

The life of Jack Madison was often a living example of human determination.  Jack did whatever he had decided to do, regardless of his obstacles and limitation.  He was always busy, and he never let anything stop him.  Despite his arthritis, and the pain that it caused him, and the way that it bent his fingers and his hands, Jack still did whatever he set his mind to doing.  He would simply not accept any limitations.  At the family cottage in Lakeside, Ohio, Jack liked to “fish.”  But you see, Jack’s hobby wasn’t the usual sort of fishing.  Jack had a grappling hook, a pretty heavy one, on a rope or a chain, and Jack would throw that hook from the dock, pull it back in hand over hand, and see what sorts of treasure he could pull up.  Sometimes it was fishing tackle, and sometimes whole fishing rods that had been lost by other fishermen.  In recent years, Jack was still doing it, even with his arthritis and bent fingers, because nothing was going to stop Jack from doing what he wanted to do.  Discomfort, or even pain, wasn’t going to stop Jack from doing something that he enjoyed.

And so no, Jack Madison was not a force of nature that was impossible to ignore and bent everyone to his will.  But, in his own quiet way, he influenced the lives of everyone around him and changed the world.  Everyone that knew Jack carries with them life-changing lessons that we will never forget.  Always keep your family close.  Do whatever you can, whenever you can, whenever you can.  Always be useful.  Don’t be too proud to do hard work and don’t let your ego get in the way.  Just because you manage the finances of a Fortune 500 company doesn’t mean you’re too important to tidy up the flower beds in the park or balance your sister-in-law’s checkbook.  And don’t let anything stop you from doing the things that you enjoy.

If any of us can remember even half of what Jack taught us, and the life that he lived out every day, we will be better people, better families, a better church, and a better community than we used to be, and, like Jack, we will change the world.



Obituary for Jack (John) L. Madison

Jack MadisonJack L. Madison, age 89, of Alliance, Ohio, died Saturday, August 4, 2018, at Community Care Center surrounded by his family.
Born November 5, 1928 in Alliance, he was the son of the late John and Florence (Lozier) Madison.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Deon (Russell) Madison; sister, D. Jean Madison Rudolph Krahling; and his best friend and brother, Elvin Madison.
He is survived by his sister-in-law, Jean Madison; grandsons, Jack and Thomas Madison and their mother, Diana D’Eramo Madison, of Alliance; nephews and nieces, Jack B. (Linda) Madison, Cindy (Ron) Knepp, Dick Madison, Chandi Rudolph (Kelly), Bob (Brenda) Madison; great-nieces and great-nephews, Lee, Sarah (Matt), Erika, Aaron (Juliana), Conner, Elliot, Aubrey, Bailey, Samantha, and Ellen; his good friends, Carol Wearstler and Tim Barnhouse; his close friend and roommate at Community Care, John Townsend; and a son, Edward.
Jack enjoyed working in the gardens around his house and in Madison Park, spending time at his cottage at Lakeside, Ohio, going to Alliance Aviator football and basketball games, and attending games at his Alma Mater, Mount Union College.
He volunteered in the Carnation Days in the Park, making hamburgers and hot dogs for The Christ United Methodist Church. His favorite thing was spending time with his grandsons and attending their various activities.
Mr. Madison retired, after 40 years of service, from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. He worked in the finance department in many different aspects of the business from their racing tire division to the Blimp operations. In his early years, he worked in the greenhouses and drove the delivery truck for the family business, Lozier Greenhouse.
Mr. Madison was a graduate of Alliance High School. He graduated from Mount Union College in 1950 and was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. He served in the Coast Guard stationed in New York City with the Port Security. He was a 50-year member of Christ United Methodist Church of Alliance, Alliance Lions Club, and a member of The Alliance Shade Tree Committee. He began volunteering at Alliance Community Hospital in 1992 accumulating over 18, 630 hours. Jack was involved in many big band groups playing his saxophone as well as a member of the Alliance City Band. He was also a member of the Lakeside Guy’s Club.
The family would like to thank Community Care Center for the great care they gave Jack. He loved them like family and Dr. Lehrer and the Palliative Group for the compassionate care they have given to Jack.
Calling hours will be held from 6-8 p.m., Wednesday, August 8, 2018, at Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home. A second visitation will be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, August 9, 2018 at the funeral home with Jack’s service being held at 11 a.m. Burial will take place at Mount Union Cemetery in Alliance.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Christ United Methodist Church, Community Care Center, Alliance Friends of Parks, or Lakeside Heritage Society 324 West Third St. Lakeside, Ohio 43440 for Building Fund.
Arrangements are by Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home 75 S. Union Ave., Alliance, OH 44601.

Karma, Deception, and Grace

“Karma, Deception, and Grace”

August 05, 2018*

By Pastor John Partridge

2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a                    John 6:24-36              Ephesians 4:1-16

Have you ever heard of Karma?  Most of us have.  It’s a popular idea even if the word is often misused.  In Hinduism and Buddhism, by definition, karma is “the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.”  What that means is, karma is the thing that will punish an evildoer, by guiding them to an unpleasant reincarnation as a poor person, or as a slug, or some other unpleasant experience in proportion to the evil that they did in a previous life.  In popular usage, karma is (wrongly) thought of as “what goes around comes around” or why bad things will, eventually, happen to bad people.

But within Christianity, we don’t believe in karma.  Instead, we believe in a sovereign, all-knowing, all-seeing, God who promises justice and judgement.  In Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a, we rejoin King David’s story as David’s crimes are revealed and his punishment levied.

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

12:1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Last week we noted that God was undoubtedly disappointed by David’s failure, but we realize, as we read this week’s passage, that “disappointed” doesn’t go far enough.  Our scripture tells us that “the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”  Even David, when presented the facts of his own case simply disguised as a story about a prized lamb by the prophet Nathan, condemns himself and demands that no pity should be taken on such a person.  But in the next moment, David’s sin is revealed as Nathan proclaims, “You are the man.”  Murder by proxy is still murder.  Nathan doesn’t quibble about who “pulled the trigger” or whose hands killed Uriah, Nathan simply says, “You killed him,” and “You took his wife.”  Before announcing David’s sentence.  God declares, “the sword will never depart from your house” or, that violence will always be a part of David’s life, and that members of his own family will one day betray him, and sleep with his wives.  David’s punishment is truly, “what goes around comes around” but it isn’t karma, it’s justice handed out by an all-knowing God.

David, like many people throughout history, including many people in our present-day world, was deceived by money, sex, and power, and began to believe that he was above the law.  He was the king, he was rich and powerful, so he could get away with it.  But in the end, David remembers the truth, that nothing is done that God does not see, that no one is above the laws of God, and that, in the end, no one escapes justice.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that David’s story is a condemnation of rich people.  In John 6:24-35, we hear a familiar story about Jesus in which ordinary people, and a great many of them, suffer from the same kind of deception that David did.

24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

An entire crowd of people climbed into boats and went in search of Jesus, but Jesus knew that every one of them had been deceived.  All these people, rich and poor alike, had followed him, not because of Jesus’ miracles, and not because of his teaching, but because they thought that he would keep feeding them.  They weren’t following Jesus the savior of mankind, or even Jesus the great teacher, they were following a meal ticket.  They didn’t follow Jesus because he confronted them with their sinfulness, or because he could help them to get closer to God, or because he would help them to become better people, they followed Jesus because of what they thought that they could get out of him.  In this case, food.

This hasn’t changed.  There are a lot of people who come to church and are known to be good upstanding members of the community and longstanding church members who have been coming to church for entirely the wrong reasons.  They come to church because their parents did, or because that simply “what good people do,” or because it’s “good for business.”  But, just like the crowds that followed Jesus, all these people have been deceived.  They are following Jesus for what they can get out of him.

And Jesus sets them all straight saying: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.”  Jesus tells the people not to be deceived by food… or by anything that spoils.  Don’t be deceived by money, sex, or power, but neither should we be deceived by more common things like clothes, or cars, nice apartments, houses, prominent businesses, job titles, professional associations, or anything else that disappears like smoke after you die.  Instead, be concerned about things that last for eternity long after your life on earth is over.

Believe in the one that God has sent and make it your business to invite others to know him.  Only your life, and the lives of others, will endure into eternity, and only Jesus can give us the bread of life.

But if we are to keep our focus on God and not be deceived by “stuff,” then how should we live our lives?  And, once again, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul shares what a life lived for God might look like. (Ephesians 4:1-16)

4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it [Psalm 68:18] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Paul reminds the church that we have been called to follow Jesus, adopted into God’s family, and work alongside Jesus, on his mission, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we ought to live our lives in such a way as to be worthy of that high calling.  We should be completely humble, patient, and loving and make every effort to remain in the unity of the Spirit through the peace that binds us together.  Jesus has poured out grace upon each one of us but in doing so he also gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

But why?

Why do we need those people?  Do we need them so that we can delegate the work of the church to them?

Clearly, Paul says, no.  Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are not employees.

Instead, Paul says that all these were called by God and sent by Jesus to equip the church for the works of service that he has called them to do.  And we are to do these works of service to build up the body of Christ until such a time that we all become mature.  And Paul says that we will be mature when we no longer act like children, no longer get tossed back and forth by our culture, no longer deceived by money, sex, power, and the craftiness of deceitful schemes.  The body of Christ, Paul says, is held together by every supporting ligament, it grows, it builds itself up in love, and every single part of the body of Christ does the work that God has called us to do.

Every single part, every single person, every single believer, has work to do.

Every one of us must be out on the field.

There are no spectators.

Maturity doesn’t come because we belong to the church and it doesn’t come simply because we stuck around for a few decades.

The way that we learn not to be deceived like David, or like the crowd that followed Jesus, the way what we become mature, is to listen and to learn from scripture.  To listen and learn from the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers that God has called so that all of us are equipped to do the work that God has called us to do.

And we must persist, we must keep on doing that work until we, eventually, become mature.



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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Pride and Prejudice

“Pride and Prejudice”

July 03, 2016

By John Partridge*



Luke 10:1-11, 16-20               Galatians 6:1-16                      2 Kings 5:1-14


Having served for ten years in the United States Army Reserve, I am a veteran.  Perhaps that makes me more conscious of public military references or more aware of how the military is being portrayed in the media, but to me it seems as if the last few years have seen a significant increase in the drumbeat of patriotism.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it depends on how it is expressed and who it is that is beating the drum.  What I have seen and heard, is a huge increase in the way that we honor veterans, the way that we praise those serving in active duty, and the way that we glorify the military in general.  Again, these things aren’t necessarily bad, but we must be careful that we aren’t being manipulated by people, businesses, and politicians who have something to gain.

I am proud to be a veteran.  I’m glad that I served and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I am proud of our military, what it can do, the skills, abilities and intellect of the men and women in uniform, and I am proud of my nation.  But in all these things, I must be careful because that pride can be manipulated by marketing companies, special interest groups, charitable organizations, and shady politicians to advance their cause even when that cause may not represent my interests and, in fact, may not be good for anyone except the shady people who profit from it.

But there is yet another reason to be cautious.  We must be cautious of pride itself because if pride is allowed to grow without boundaries, controls, or accountability, it can grow into something ugly.

We begin this morning in 2 Kings 5:1-14, where we meet Naaman, one of the most powerful military leaders of his day.  But despite all of his power, Naaman had a big problem.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.”So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Naaman was the commanding general of the most powerful army in the known world.  Among his friends were warriors, kings, and ruling elites.  But he had an incurable disease that didn’t care about his wealth, power, or influential friends.  The good news was that one his slaves knew that Elisha, the prophet of the God of Israel, had real power that came from God himself.  And so, Naaman goes to Israel carrying great wealth and a letter of introduction from the King of Aram.  The king of Israel worries that this is a trick because he knows that leprosy is incurable, but Elisha tells the king that he should send Naaman to him.

And here is where Naaman’s patriotism derails everything and very nearly kills him.

Even though Elisha tells Naaman what he must do to be cured, he storms off because the cure required that he bathe in a river in Israel instead of a river in his home country.  Naaman was so proud of his home country that he was insulted that he couldn’t be cured in waters that he believed to be superior simply because they were the rivers of his home.  For Naaman, his home, his nation, was better than every other.  For him, there was no better place in the entire world.  For him, it was necessary to believe that home was worth fighting for because it was the best.  But that nationalistic streak, that pride, became a prejudice against everyone else, and a prejudice against any place else.

And that pride almost killed him,

The irony is that the warrior who would die because of his pride and arrogance was rescued by his servants.  They gently remind the Naaman that if Elisha had demanded some great act of service, or participation in some heroic battle, Naaman would have jumped at the chance.  And so, in humility, they suggest that perhaps something simple could be done just as easily.  And as soon as Naaman recovers enough of his humility to do as Elisha asked, he is healed, the incurable is cured, and the damage that has been done to his flesh, is restored.

Similarly, in his letter to the church in Galatia (Galatians 6:1-16), Paul warns that the leaders of the church, and indeed any of the followers of Jesus Christ, and not immune from falling victim to our own arrogance and pride.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

We all experience failure.  None of us are perfect.  And so, when someone sins, our response should not be to humiliate them further, turn our backs on them, throw them out, excommunicate them, or otherwise abandon them, but to restore them… gently.  Paul says that it’s okay to be proud of your own accomplishments, but that you’ve crossed a line when you compare yourself to someone else.  Your path and your burdens are yours and not someone else’s.  We can help others to carry their burdens, and they can help to carry ours, but we cannot be proud that we are doing “better” than they are without our pride crossing the line into arrogance and sin.  Our motivation in doing good must be to please God and not to please ourselves or to make ourselves more comfortable.

Paul goes on to remind his readers that there are those within the community of believers, likely including some well known people or church leaders, who do things simply to impress people.  These people tried to get believers to do things that weren’t required.  They wanted people to follow rules rather than follow Jesus because following rules looked good and impressed people.  They wanted Gentile believers to be circumcised so that they would “fit in” and not because it was required to follow Jesus.  Their ultimate motivation was to be popular and comfortable rather than obedient to God and to the mission of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus sent seventy-two missionaries out into the towns and villages ahead of him he built in a lesson on humility even before they took the first step of their journey. (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Jesus sends his followers out with nothing that they can call their own and nothing that they can credit for their success or failure.  They go out with almost no possessions of any kind, no money, no luggage, and not even shoes on their feet. All that they have are their gifts, talents, abilities, and the Spirit of God that goes with them.  And when they return, they sing God’s praises telling everyone what God had done and not what they had done.  Afterward, Jesus instructs them not even to rejoice over God’s power, but simply to praise God for their salvation.

Pride is a tricky thing.  It’s okay to be proud.  It’s okay to be proud of ourselves.  It’s okay to be proud of God and the things that God does.  It’s okay to be proud of our nation and proud of our military.  But we can cross a line and become too proud.  We must be careful not to allow our pride to drift into arrogance.  Patriotism is normal and even expected, but sometimes patriotism can be an excuse for our failure to be humble before God.

And so, as we leave this place to go out and celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, feel free to be happy for our country.  Feel free to be proud of how far we have come and what we have accomplished.  But let us also try to keep our priorities in order and remember that everything that we have been given, as individuals, as a church, and as a nation, has been given to us as a gift from God and, just as surely, can be taken away by God.

Let us remember that our obedience must be to God first, and to our nation second.

The most important thing, however, is to rejoice that God has chosen to rescue us.



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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at   These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.