Griffin centers Chapel talk on shifting margins
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Matt Nykamp
GCU News Bureau
Margins, Dr. Tim Griffin called them. Before the pandemic, it mainly referred to your physical space and societal limits. Now, it’s virtually anything.
His Chapel talk Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena centered on finding those margins in our lives. The Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor broke it down with a series of stories and musings.
First, though, he acknowledged the obvious:
“Now I know, coming back to campus, the last thing you wanted to talk about is anything related to 2020 because 2020 is nothing like what we want to repeat,” he began after reminding his student audience to continue to follow COVID-19 protocols. “And we want that to be in our past; we want the future to be bright.
“… But we do need to learn and appreciate how important margins and boundaries and protocols are. It’s a part of life.”
In his own life, Griffin learned about margins in second grade when his father moved the family to a Midwest farm. Young Tim had never seen chickens before, and he told the story of getting chased all over the yard after getting too close to one of them – a memory that still haunts him when he walks past a chicken coop next to campus.
He ran through all the other childhood lessons related to margins – being shepherded as a toddler, writing and drawing between the lines, playing sports – until the inclination kicks in during high school to test those margins.
“Maybe you stepped over those lines to figure out what margins you think you need to have in your life,” he said. “And then there would be mom and dad or a principal or teacher to be around you very closely to make sure you understood where the margins should be in your life.
“Then you get to college. Mom and dad aren’t around quite like they used to be, and all of a sudden now you can make decisions. You can get up at noon and miss three classes if you want, and there are consequences. Some of you have learned those after the Christmas break, how important some of those decisions you made last semester are.”
Along came 2020.
“Today, a lot of those margins and lines and boundaries are being changed, are being challenged and are being moved in one direction or another,” he said. “… The margin now seems to be a little bit more fluid than it once was. It used to be very clear, but now it’s a little fuzzy.”
He pointed to various examples:
- Relationships: They’re conducted virtually, sometimes without even meeting in person – sometimes ending before the two people ever were face to face.
- Communication: It’s often via email. Griffin described how he was dumbfounded, back in the day, when email first was explained to him, but now emails and text messages are as much a part of our lives as breathing.
- Politics: The winds have shifted dramatically, as demonstrated last week and last summer. “People are so strident with one another,” he said. “They’re hostile. They’re frustrated.” He wondered whether the new “cancel culture” would forbid even talking about margins.
- Spirituality: It’s changing, too. “Some of the margins that you had for your own spiritual formation and your passions about following Jesus have been challenged,” he said.
- Ethics: He has canceled all of his social media accounts because he doesn’t know what information he can trust anymore. “How do you know truth today?” he asked. “It is so difficult to know what is true.”
But Griffin knows the place where the margins are always true.
“Let me challenge you in this way: to find your margins within the Scripture,” he said. “To find the lines that God has drawn, whatever that means. I’m not talking about rules necessarily, but the things that are clear and true that are outlined in Scripture, may they become the curbs and the margins of your life.”
Griffin urged students to base their church experience on how well they are being taught margins, not on how funny or hip the sermon is. And he underscored the point of his entire talk by visiting the biblical story from the third chapter of Daniel about the three Hebrews who defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to bow before a statue.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the furnace, cranked up so high that it killed the soldiers escorting them, but they were unharmed as a mysterious figure joined them in the inferno. The king was changed forever:
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
We can react the same way when our faith is challenged, Griffin said. We can stand strong or can deny Jesus, as Peter did.
“I want to encourage you, in a day in which the world in which we live is changing minute to minute, moment to moment, and we see things and hear things, we wonder, ‘What is happening? Where are the lines that should frame my life?’ My friend, may I encourage you to find them in the word of God.
“Be a student of His word. Be more committed than ever to following Jesus wherever He leads you and wherever He takes you. May He be truly your King of kings and your Lord of lords. May you not compromise that line, that framework for your life, that says, ‘This is true, and here I will stand.’
“Will you choose to be that kind of a follower of Jesus who will stand in the midst of shifting sands to hold on to the truth of Scripture, the word of God and your commitment to Jesus in the face of whatever comes?”
● Chapel replay
● Next Monday: No Chapel (Martin Luther King holiday)
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].