Embracing the Paradox

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

The life of faith is all about embracing paradoxes. So much of what it means to be a Christian is completely upside compared to the words standards and expectations.

As we think about Thanksgiving, gratitude is a great place to start. Gratitude is a feeling (happiness and contentment) and a response (giving thanks-giving is a verb) to a particular way of seeing the world. That vision is one of ‘counting blessings.’ We look out and take stock in all that God has given us, but here is where it turns upside down. For the faithful, after looking at all that we have, the next thing we are compelled to do is give some of it away. Counting blessings leads to giving those blessings away, which you might guess would mean having less blessings, but somehow even giving them away you end up more blessed. It is upside down.

But it doesn’t stop there. Consider greatness. At the congregation I serve we recently had a lock-in (sleep over) at the church. To help the youth understand a Christian perspective on greatness we allowed the 5th graders (the youngest) to select where they would like to sleep first. Going up from there, our senior high youth got the last pick. Care to guess how that went over? Horrible, of course, because that is not how it is supposed to work. But when Jesus was teaching his disciples about greatness (repeatedly, I might add), he specifically said if you want to be great act like the youngest. His suggestion: to be great, put the needs and cares of others first.

If that seems absurd, buckle up because we haven’t even gotten to the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are an excerpt from a sermon Jesus preached. Sometimes the message of them can get lost in the beauty of the words, but essentially Jesus suggests God is going to flip the whole world upside down. The poor are blessed, the hungry will be filled, and the meek will inherit the earth. It’s all wrong according to the world, but right side up according to the kingdom of God.

So, here’s the reminder for us. Just because the world insists ‘might is right’ and wealth is blessing, doesn’t make it true. In fact, often the opposite is the case. And it is our job as the faithful to embrace the paradoxes of our faith trusting in a God whose wisdom is beyond our understanding. Afterall, the world says death is the end. Our God says death is life. Our God has already flipped the world upside down. As we enter into this Thanksgiving and holiday season, may we let God flip our expectations.

For more inspiration and insights from past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.