Final Chapel message of semester is filled with love
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
They called in the closer Monday morning for the final Chapel of the fall semester at Grand Canyon University.
But Tom Shrader didn’t get the save. That, baseball fans, always goes to God.
When the Redemption Church pastor met last spring with Dr. Tim Griffin, GCU’s Pastor and Dean of Students, and Griffin asked him which Chapel date he would prefer, Shrader didn’t hesitate.
“It took me two seconds to say, ‘I want that last one,’” he said. “I knew it would be at Christmastime – hearing those Christmas carols, it just jacks me up.”
Before Shrader’s talk, members of the Chapel band had tried something new – singing as a 10-member choir – and performed Christmas music. Critical Mass, GCU’s a cappella ensemble, also made a special guest appearance.
Then it was Shrader’s turn. His dry, witty speaking style doesn’t scream jacked up, but his message always packs a punch.
He began with a most unusual prop: Elmo from “Sesame Street.” “Fascinating dude,” Shrader deadpanned.
He had some research to back that up: Elmo was created for toddlers age 3 and younger and, according to a survey, is as well-known among them as Santa Claus and about as popular as Mickey Mouse.
But the point of bringing that up was not to remind listeners of their childhood. It was to share the first two things his Elmo doll, given to his daughter years ago, “says” when you push the button:
- “Elmo loves you.”
- “Elmo loves you more.”
Kevin Clash, Elmo’s creator and voice, once said that Elmo connects with children and adults on the “purest level,” and Shrader used that thought as the foundation for the point of his talk – that the only perfect love is God’s love for us. No matter what we do, God always loves us more.
“You have this fundamental, deep human desire to be loved,” Shrader told the largely student audience, “and Elmo can’t fill it and your roommate can’t fill it and your future spouse, if you get married, can’t fill it and your parents can’t and a friend can’t. Only God can.”
Shrader used a very well-known Bible verse – John 3:16 – to drive home his declaration that “God loves you in spite of you, not because of you.”
Substituting his own name in the verse, Shrader quoted it thusly:
“For God so loved Tom that he gave His one and only Son, that Tom shall not perish but have eternal life.”
He cited three related verses:
- Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God —not by works, so that no one can boast.”
“If you love someone,” Shrader said, “you’ll show it.”
And no one has ever shown it more than Jesus did.
How does this tie into Christmas? Simple. Shrader twice referred to this thought from Christian author Max Lucado: “The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us.”
We will feel that love in various ways over the next few weeks, Shrader noted, as we visit with family and friends. But our relationship with God is the one that counts far more.
“We come into the world thirsty for love, and we’re going to look all over for it,” Shrader said. “We’re going to look to Elmo. We’re going to look to other people.
“And I can guarantee you every relationship you ever have, you’ll be disappointed – there will be some point in time where that person won’t react the way you want them to, and that’s because you’re asking them to be God. No person can do that, but God can.”
● For a full replay of Chapel, including the music by Critical Mass and the Chapel band, click here.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.