1 Chronicles 29:1-9, 14-17
October 22, 2017
“Look into the depths
OF ANOTHER’S SOUL
not only with our ears,
BUT WITH OUR HEARTS
and our silent love.”
This is a quote on the inside cover of a book my father-in-law loaned me awhile back. He had read it and thought I might like to read it as well. Now at the time this book could not be purchased in a bookstore, but rather amazingly all over the country small groups of people were reading it chapter by chapter and after each chapter coming together in someone’s house to discuss it. Although I was not part of such a group I thoroughly enjoyed the book and have since recommended it to many people.
This book titled, The Ultimate Gift was written by a man named Jim Stovall. Mr. Stovall, according to his bio, is a blind man who chose not to be defined by that particular trait. In fact, he became a national champion Olympic weightlifter, a successful investment broker, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. In addition, he is Co-Founder and President of the Narrative Television Network, which makes movies and television accessible for our nation's 13 million blind and visually impaired people and their families.
It was the role of Motivational Speaker that helped him come to a better understanding of what mattered most in his life. Wanting to be the best he could be in that role forced him to ask himself serious questions and then listen to that still small voice within us all for the answer. Now this is no small task, but I belief with every fiber of my being that anyone who stands before people to speak about life and provide a good word needs to spend as much time as they can asking these same questions and more time listening for the answer from that still small Voice.
So, Stovall did just that after years of reaching out to diverse audiences who wanted to know more about Stovall’s remarkable history. When he turned his ear toward his inner self, he says he went right to the heart of the values or gifts that rest within us all, and discovered the magical transformations that begin once we start to recognize and share these treasures. It was his recognition of these treasures that laid the foundation for this book and became the keys that continue to unlock incredible new hope, joy and meaning for individuals, families, schools and public-service organizations throughout the world.
The Ultimate Gift
So, Stovall’s way of teaching about these “Gifts” was through the fictional life of Red Stevens a self-made billionaire who gave his family everything and ruined them in the process. Following his death and as his estate of mega companies is divided among greedy and self-serving relatives, one member is singled out for a chance to do something special: his grandson Jason.
Jason thought his inheritance was going to be the gift of money and lots of it, but boy was he ever in for a big surprise. The story sends trust fund baby Jason on an improbable journey of discovery, having to answer the ultimate question: “What is the relationship between wealth and happiness?” Jason had a very simple relationship with his impossibly wealthy Grandfather, Howard “Red” Stevens. He hated him. No heart-to-heart talks, no warm fuzzies, just cold hard cash. So of course, he figured that when Red died, the whole “reading of the will” thing would be another simple cash transaction, that his Grandfather’s money would allow him to continue living in the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed. But what Red left him was anything but simple as during his life, Red had devised a plan for Jason to experience a crash course on life. This crash course was made up of Twelve tasks, each of which would serve to teach Jason about the twelve gifts of life.
Before he died, Red recorded a series of video messages and asked his lawyer, Mr. Hamilton and his assistant Mrs. Hastings to share these videos with Jason over the following year. In the first video Red told Jason, “On the first of each month for the next year, you will meet with Mr. Hamilton and Ms. Hastings and they will give you one element of what I call The Ultimate Gift. If you stay the course over the next year, and embrace each element, in the end you will be the recipient of the most significant bequest I can leave you... Understand, if at any time you do not perform as indicated, or if you give Mr. Hamilton or Mrs. Hastings any undue amount of difficulty, I’ve instructed them to stop the process and leave you with nothing.”
One gift per month for the next twelve months doesn’t necessarily sound so bad, but these gifts, the gift of:
A DAY; and
required effort. These gifts were hard work because all Jason wanted was the money. He didn’t want his selfish life disrupted, and this was exactly what Red wanted Jason to overcome. Red knew once Jason accomplished all twelve tasks, Jason’s life would be transformed from a selfish money hungry egomaniac, to a selfless giver of all he had been blessed with. This, according to Re, is The Ultimate Gift; TRANSFORMATION!
I wonder if Jim Stovall, in coming to his own recognition of these twelve gifts of a life well lived knew something about the way the Chronicler wanted King David to be remembered. The Book of Chronicles as a whole, retells the story of the Israelite/Jewish people, briefly summarizing the history until the reign of King David, and then focusing on the reigns of David, Solomon and the later kings of Judea. (It largely omits any mention of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.) But Chronicles does not simply retell the narrative of the Davidic kings. Chronicles has its own particular view of Israel’s history to tell, in which particular events and groups are highlighted, while other events are de-emphasized.
It highlights the covenant between God and David, and describes David and his descendants as sitting “on the throne of the Lord.” King David and his son Solomon are idealized, and the period of their reign is described in glorious terms. The story of Solomon’s succession highlights this idealization: David is described as announcing to all of Israel that God has chosen Solomon as David’s successor. We see this in today’s passage, but equally important to our understanding of today’s passage is King David’s focus on glorifying God. Even in telling the whole assembly about Solomon’s forthcoming reign, David central focus is God and what he believed was most important in honoring God, the building of God’s Temple.
In his sharing with those assembled, David makes clear what his Kingdom had collected from its citizens and dedicated solely to the construction of God’s Temple, but he shares something else. Something a little more personal… David had become a very wealthy man, but his focus was not on himself as he was eager to glorify God, so he announced his decision to contribute his personal wealth to help in the task. David then appealed to all those people to do as he had done. So, he asked them to follow his lead and give themselves to the service of God. This means that they would give much of their accumulated wealth to God.
And you know something, the leaders responded by joyfully giving gifts. They wanted to give and they did so happily.
It seems to me, at least, that David knew the mission of glorifying God was a group mission.
This mission required the setting aside of selfish goals and selfish ambitions.
This mission was about selflessly giving something back in honor of the one who selflessly gave to you.
This mission was about The Ultimate Gift.
This mission was about Transformation.
David Randolph, a Methodist pastor in New York state, has offered a unique perspective on all of this. He says…
“The meaning of life is to receive life as a gift and to offer it back as a gift. It is as essential as breathing in and breathing out. How terrible it would be,” he says, “if we only breathed in, if we were only receivers, if we were only takers. We would soon become bloated and explode. Yes, we receive, but then we give. We breathe out. We share the gift that has been given to us.”
Yes, David cared for his people. Yes, David cared for Solomon and wanted the best for him, and` it seems David understood the way to achieve this for everyone was through the glorification of God because David knew this was God’s desire for God’s Beloved. According to the Chronicler, David understood how central giving back was to the accomplishing of this task, and he also knew it takes a village. This task is only accomplished in community. This task requires all of us because we are all God’s Beloved.
As it was for them, and as it was for the fictional Jason Stevens, the task continues for us today. Each and every one of us has something to give, and make no mistake it will take all of us. In fact, participation by all of us is the only way it can be accomplished because we were all created in God’s Divine image. In all of our uniqueness, we are all walking advertisements of a diverse and beautiful God who loves each and every one of us so much to bless us in ways we could not otherwise be blessed. And because we are first created in this Divine image of selflessly giving and loving, we are all capable of living this way.
This is at least part of what the Chronicler wanted us to know about King David.
This is the Ultimate Gift Red Stevens wanted to give his grandson Jason Stevens.
The gift of selflessly giving and selflessly loving.
The gift of Selflessly giving and selflessly loving is joyful
The gift of Selflessly giving and selflessly loving is transformational.
The gift of selflessly giving and selflessly loving is divine…
This ultimate gift is a gift all of us are called first to receive, and then we are called to give. May we receive when needed, and may we joyfully and graciously give. It is our call.
 Joye Kanelakos
 1 Chronicles 29:23
 1 Chronicles 28:5
 MGQ-SW-139, p.249