Pass or Fail

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

Although it’s been several falls since I myself have geared up to go back to school, since I spent the 20+ falls before heading to grade school, high school, college or seminary, this time of year always comes with it’s own form of post traumatic stress for me. You see, when you grew up in the Hannon house going to school wasn’t just something kids did, it was your job. And to that end, it was your job to work hard, apply yourself, and—of course—to get good grades. And so for years landing on the honor roll wasn’t simply an honor for parent to throw on a bumper sticker (although mine never did), it was the expectation. And we usually didn’t disappoint. But in 2006, 13 years ago, all of that would forever change. Although I was geared up for school… again… this time was different. Instead of wearing fall clothes in New York, I was wearing golf shorts in South Carolina, and there at seminary orientation the Dean said words that were music to my ears. She said:

“Although we are a prestigious and academic institution, for those of you pursuing degrees for ministry purposes you will simply be graded on a pass/fail basis.”

Pass or fail. I had to make sure I didn’t mishear. But it was true. At Southern Seminary, pastoral candidates we received a P or F for every class. And you know what P stands for, don’t you? Not Pass. Pass-tor. Although in all honesty, I never did settle, this was the first time in my academic career where good enough actually was good enough. I relished in the moment.

Unfortunately, the rest of life following Jesus has hardly compared. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the last time ‘good enough’ was. Usually, it turns out, good enough never is. That’s certainly true for Jesus anyway.

The Pharisees used to get mad at Jesus because of the company he kept. He’d eat with tax collectors and sinners, after all. So Jesus told them a parable. He said, “Which of you, having 100 sheep and losing 1 does not leave the 99 to find the 1?” So Jesus said, “there’s joy in heaven over every sinner who repents.” Then he said, “And if a woman loses 1 of her 10 coins will she not do everything in her power to find it and then throw a party for her friends and family once it is found?” Again Jesus said, “there’s joy in heaven over every sinner who repents.”

And I thought my parents had high expectations! I’m certain they would have settled for 99 out of a 100 or even 90%. But not God. God isn’t settled until God gathers every single one.

And thanks be to God for that. For it means that there is joy in heaven for you and for me and for every person God has made. We are all worthy in his eyes, and he isn’t satisfied until he has called each and every one of us. Sometimes you hear people talk about finding Jesus. It happens. It’s true. But this lesson from Jesus is clear. When we are lost, God will stop at nothing to find us. And when he does, there’s joy in heaven. Live in that grace and goodness today! Amen.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and 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 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.