Fresh Start

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

Our family vacation a few weeks ago got off to a rocky start. By the end of our first day we were sitting in the urgent care with our youngest unable to move her arm. But then it happened. As I stretched my daughter’s arm out for an x-ray I heard (and felt) the elbow pop back into it’s socket. The doctor asked, “You guys don’t swing her by her arms, or anything like that do you? I simply began sinking into my chair.”

Of course I swing her by her arms. I pick her up by her arms. I throw her by her arms. All. The. Time. And each time I do, my wife tells me I’m going to pull her arm out of its socket. And I think to myself: Enough with this hippy, new age, don’t tell kids ‘no,’ adults buckling up in the back seat, give everybody a trophy nonsense! But then it happened to me.

I pulled my daughter’s arm elbow partially out of socket, and was in such vehement denial that lifting her that way could hurt her that I let her hold her arm that way for half a day. Now in the end it worked out, and despite that fact that I should have known better, it was for all intents and purposes an accident. But as Lent kicks off, I couldn’t help but reflect on how stupid I was or all of the other things I should know better than to do yet always find myself doing.

…like driving too fast.

…like looking at my phone when it buzzes in the car.

…like buying things I don’t need.

…like eating crap.

…and like a host of other things I do day in and day out that I know I shouldn’t, but do anyway.

And I know I’m not alone. Humans have a condition perfectly summed up by the Apostle Paul two thousand years ago. He said, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19).

Recognizing that reality in these forty days before Easter called Lent is at the heart of the discipline to which Christians are invited. We’re called to recognize our sinfulness (see also: stupidness), and turn to God for two things. First, we look to God for another way that contends against our sinful rebellion. And second, we’re called to look to God for the forgiveness when try as we might, we still end up sinning again.

You may not pick small children up by their arms, but there is something in your life you know you shouldn’t do but end up doing anyway. Perhaps it’s judging people, hurting people, gossip, jealousy, substance abuse, food abuse, self-abuse. Whatever it is, as these next few weeks bring us closer to the cross of Jesus’ death, may you too move toward laying your burden down there. As you do, remember, God loves you and forgives you. Remember, God longs to bring you new life.

Take it from a repeat offender, denial and dismissal is easy, but someone usually ends up getting hurt. Return. God loves you, and God is dying (literally) to offer you a fresh start. Amen.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit 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.