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If You Want to Be Great…

Saturday’s gloomy weather in the southeast provided an apt atmosphere for attending a memorial service.  My dear friend’s father had been battling lung cancer for some time, but he took a quick turn for the worse last weekend and flew away on Wednesday evening.  Like a typical funeral scene out of a movie, friends and family filed into their small Moravian church wearing black and huddled under umbrellas.  What happened inside, however, was by no means normal.  The simple, Christ-centered celebration of Luke Cathell’s life was extraordinary.

Woven between gospel-centered songs and readings about the power of Christ’s resurrection, Luke’s long-time pastor and his ordained son-in-law, Chris, shared a few words and memories.  Chris began his remarks by referencing Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in Mark 10:43-44, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”  He went on to tell about Luke’s passionate devotion to serving his wife and two kids.  Chris shared several examples demonstrating Luke’s practice of putting the family’s needs before his own.  He highlighted Luke’s devotion to his church and the thoughtful attention he’d given to developing a Bible curriculum for the 4th and 5th grade students he taught in his Sunday School class.  He wanted them to be exposed to the narrative of redemption in a systematic and engaging way.  Luke was devoted to excellence in his work and his colleagues to the end.  Chris expressed Luke’s delight in the joy of those around him and his steady, faithful walk with God.

By many standards, Luke Cathell was your average American dad.  He had a whopping 82 friends on Facebook.  The only pictures of him online are those posted by others of his daughter’s wedding.  He was never famous.  He didn’t make an inordinate amount of money and own lavish properties.  He didn’t have a weekly podcast.  He didn’t wield much power (in the world’s eyes at least).  And yet his son-in-law ended his remarks by saying, “Luke Cathell was of the greatest men in the kingdom of God I’ve ever known.”

There’s nothing like a funeral service to ignite serious self-reflection.  Jesus made the values of the kingdom of God explicitly clear.  The last shall be first and the first shall be last.  How tempting it is to give our lives to and spend our energy on “getting ahead.”  The lie of our culture is that we’ll never get ahead by putting others first.  Imagine it – being secure enough in the love and provision of God to truly and consistently seek the benevolence of those around you.  We give so much of our attention, time, and passion to building an image, promoting ourselves, and climbing ladders. God, give us grace to live for the unseen, to submit ourselves to the upside-down economics of Your kingdom, and to leave eternal legacy.

Luke is now fully healed.  He’s with Jesus face-to-face and has been made like Him.  And through Luke’s trust in the finished work of Christ he’s hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  He got it and I don’t want to miss it: If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.


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Ashlee Johnson

Ashlee is the wife of a pastor, mom of two busy little ones, and a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary. She is passionate about communicating the truths of Scripture to women and magnifying Jesus as the All-Satisfying Treasure and Almighty Redeemer. She has lived in North Carolina for most of her life and loves making the most of the sidewalks and parks in her 1940s neighborhood. Ashlee enjoys healthy eating and exercising, but finds it nearly impossible to resist homemade cookies!

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