By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
President Brian Mueller talks often about the effect God has had on Grand Canyon University and, in turn, its neighborhood, but he greatly expanded the radius in his semester-opening Chapel talk Monday.
“Is it possible that an entire city can be transformed?” he asked the assembled audience that nearly filled GCU Arena. “Is it possible that an entire city can be different?”
GCU certainly is far different from what it was upon Mueller’s arrival. He opened with a video that demonstrates how much the campus has grown, particularly in recent years.
“It’s overwhelming what God has done here,” he said. “I came here in 2008, we had a plan, we thought it might work – but nothing like this.”
The focus of his talk was the story of Zacchaeus’ transformation in Luke 19:1-10, “but I’m going to talk about it from a different angle,” Mueller said.
Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, which in those days was akin to being, as Mueller put it, a “scoundrel” who cheated people out of money. That made it all the more scandalous when Jesus, spying Zacchaeus in the tree he had climbed to get a better look at the Lord, told him to come down because He wanted to stay at his house.
The passage concludes:
“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”
Mueller’s point in referencing this: Zacchaeus was vowing to transform the marketplace.
“Because he was changed, the marketplace was changed,” Mueller said. “It was now one world.”
And what that means for GCU:
“Why are we doing all this? Because as Christians we too often have forfeited the marketplace.”
The marketplace gets forfeited, Mueller said, when we act differently there compared to the way we behave in church.
It goes back to God giving Adam and Eve three directives: to worship Him (vertical), to care for each other (horizontal) and to work the earth they had been given. They soon began worshiping other gods, they each wanted to be first, and they realized that work is hard.
“It becomes easy to separate out what we do at church from what we do all week,” Mueller said. “It becomes easy to say, ‘I can’t do this at work. Let me just think about God and let me think about my relationship to Him when I’m at church. … We forfeit the marketplace in favor of the easy route, which is, ‘Just do it at church.’”
But the minute Zacchaeus came across Jesus, he changed that behavior. Suddenly, he was living the same way in both places. Mueller wondered why that can’t that happen today.
“Business, politics, government, education – it’s going to change when Jesus touches people in the marketplace,” Mueller said.
Mueller closed by sharing the story of Jerome Garrison, a former GCU basketball player who recently returned to the Valley after two seasons playing professionally in Spain.
Garrison wanted to coach and felt strangely unimpressed by seemingly plum jobs in Gilbert and Scottsdale. But when he saw the needs of the Imagine Avondale charter school, he knew he had found the right place.
The biggest need is a gymnasium, and Garrison came to Mueller for help. Mueller, in turn, took a tour of the school and was moved by the effect Garrison already has had.
“Holy cow, this is a Christian, this is a believer who wants to do something in the marketplace,” Mueller said he thought to himself.
Just like Zacchaeus. And just as GCU is seeking to transform the marketplace of west Phoenix and beyond – Mueller also noted the work the University is doing in the struggling Murphy Elementary School District near downtown Phoenix.
“I’m really, really excited about what’s going to happen this semester,” he said. “I’m excited about how God is going to change lives, how He’s going to transform people, about how the Gospel is going to get preached on this campus and off this campus. I’m excited about the number of people who are going to get saved this semester.”
His final Bible reference was Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
“Cities can be changed,” Mueller concluded. “God can change them.”
● For a replay of Chapel, including the music of the all-student band, click here.
● Next Monday: No Chapel (Martin Luther King holiday)
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.