You Might Die Trying

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY

At the Dave Matthew’s Band concert I attended last week I was struck by a song I’ve heard Dave sing before in a brand new light. The song is called, “You Might Die Trying.” Like most Dave songs, hearing the lyrics in a new light upon different hearings is entirely possible given half the words he sings are difficult for the common listener to understand. But, for whatever reason, this night all the words rang true to me.

He sang, “to change the world it starts with one step. However, small. First step is hardest of all. Once you get to your gate, you will walk tall. You said you never did ’cause you might die trying.” The next verse goes on to talk about the paralyzing effect of fear.

The ultimate point of the song is to call out the self-preservation in us that leads us to the shelter of safety and inaction. We believe we are protecting our life, but what if we are losing it? What if our fear that we might ‘die trying,’ is ultimately what leads to our demise?

One place I see this happening is in our church. I was privileged to lead a workshop at a conference for pastors and leaders from churches last week. The ultimate point of the workshop was to help churches understand the dynamics of today’s young Christian and find ways of reaching them. Almost immediately in our conversation the snare that entraps so many churches threatened to grab us. A woman from a church in Townline said, “Yes, but how am I supposed to make changes to minister to new people, when I know those changes will anger older members?”

I wish I had Dave there to help who said in the song I quoted above: “If you close your eyes cause the house is on fire, and think you couldn’t move until the fire dies. The things you never did ’cause you might die trying.”

Our churches are already on fire (and for all too many, not in the good way!). And yet, rather than do something about it, we resort to maintaining the status quo hoping (foolishly) for the fire die. Only the fire doesn’t die. We do.

And the reality we are left with is that all of the actions we were afraid to take because we thought we might die trying, are ultimately the actions that led to our death.

The bridge of Dave Matthew’s song triumphantly boasts, “If you give, you begin to live. You get the world.” We’re Christians. We believe that death has lost its sting. Why then are we so afraid of it?

There’s a story in scripture of a man who entrusted his wealth to three servants. The first two invested their master’s money, but the third thought he was being wise. He buried the talent then returned it to the master expecting his master to be proud of his safe play and 100% return of what he was given. Instead the master was furious. Instead of rewarding the servant, he punished him.  The third servant was thought he might “die trying.” Instead, he died faster not trying.

In ministry, and in life, you might die trying. But all too often it is far more likely that we will suffer from not trying anything at all. There may be an area of your life, your business, your school, your community that you would love to see change, but you are afraid of the results of our your actions. Remember, very often the safest play isn’t wisest, and fear is almost always the worst guide. DMB: “If you give, you begin to live. You get the world. But the things you never did ’cause you might die trying, well, you may be already good as dead.”

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Pastor Shawn Hannon
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.