Sunday, January 20, 2008


This 2nd Sunday after Epiphany included the special treat of a Chili-Dog Dinner after the service to help raise funds for our Wednesday night Adventure Club. To this end Darlene and Cheryl performed an original drama that was most entertaining and despite the chilly weather hearts were warm, pews were full and the sunlight was dancing in the aisles.

Today's Scripture readings:
Isaiah 49:1-7
I Corinthians 1:1-9

Pastor Shannon's message this week focused on the theme of character transformation, which is directly related to leadership. Whether in our communities, in the workplace or in the home, there is a need for leaders who reflect the character of Christ. This message dealt with the process of becoming a model of what Christ wants us to be.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that transformation is some kind of mystical experience that just "happens" to us. The truth is that we each have a role to play in our transformation.l God has done His part for us on the cross. We participate in revealing His grace by doing our part.

Becoming like God means reflecting His likeness. No, we are not called to become all-powerful or all-knowing like God. Rather, we share in and reflect His character. It is character that leads.

Pastor Brad outlined three journeys we undertake as Christians, the development of virtue, generosity and wisdom.

Conflict is going to be part of the process of becoming virtuous, not because we don't know what God wants. We usually know what God expects or desires of us, but too often we are busy weighing the consequences of obedience. What we lack then is courage to do what is right.

Citing the example of Joshua, we note that he was much like us. He received instruction from the Lord, but was held back by his fear.

6 "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." ~ Joshua 1:6-9

The Angel of the Lord would not have said "Do not be terrified" if Joshua had been enthusiastic and confident. Joshua had been given direction, but needed something more to follow through. He needed courage. It is as if God is saying to us here, "Do not be afraid. Obey and trust."

We don't rely on evaluating consequences. Rather, rely on God, moving forward regardless of the outcome.

God wants us to be crazy about giving our lives away. But it is hard to be generous without wholeness in our lives. Wholeness is not an end in itself. Instead, we become whole to give it away.

Pastor Shannon cited the incident that took place at the house of Simon, a pharisee.

36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."
40Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.
41"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
43Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said. ~Luke 7:36-43

Re-telling this parable with a modern setting (VISA card debt) and following it with another story from his youth, Pastor Shannon underscored that generosity flows out from an attitude that is born in us when we recognize how much the Lord gave for us.

How do we achieve wisdom? Perseverance is the process. James 1:2-5 outlines this for us. Trials are necessary for our growth.

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. ~ James 1:2-5

This is the reason we consider trials to be "all joy" because when we are experiencing a trial, we know we will soon see God break through. Trials produce opportunities for us to see God's faithfulness in action. All too often we lower the bar, expect too little of ourselves or of our God.

In Psalm 119:32 we read, "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free."

God wants us to know freedom, to run free. Leaders do not pre-occupy themselves with the question, "How much more do I have to give up?"

Character always leads. If we settle for mediocrity, we're not going to lead this church to become all it's meant to be. Are you going to hang around, or run forward and free? Run free!

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

After the service we enjoyed chili-dog feed featuring the wonderful handiwork of Don Walters. Don Walters’ career has included years of service on large boats such as the St. Clair and the Roger M. Kyes of the American Steamship Co. fleet. A native Duluthian, Walters earned the nickname “Chili Don” during his time on the Great Lakes the 1980’s.

If you were here, you know it was yummy. If you were not... you missed something really good.

Above: Don Walters stirs the chili.

Right: 1980's newspaper story features Don's Great Lakes experiences and skills.
click on photos to enlarge

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