The Shape of Victory

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

In the past week, I’ve gotten word that two men who I admire and look up to have decided to cease cancer treatment and begin the end of life care. I hear news like this often, and it always hits me. But this time, in particular, the news has hit me too close to home. Both of these men are pastors. One is a part of a community of pastors that shepherded me through my discernment and formation process and has been a means of support for the last 12 years. The other has been a partner in ministry with me at Hope for the last five years. Since we started working together this man has been a cheerleader, a confidant, a sounding board, and a well of support. Both of these men are friends.

My first thought when I heard their respective news was denial. “Don’t be silly,” I thought, “There must be something we can still do.” They’re too young. They’ve got too much left to do—too much life left to live. It doesn’t make sense.

When I met with one of them in the days after they broke the news to me, he must have read my mind. With a few brief words, he totally reoriented my entire perspective on his journey. He said, “Pastor, it probably looks like I’m choosing death, but trust me. I’m choosing life.”

 “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul wrote that to the church in Corinth. Paul wrote that to the faithful. Paul wrote that for us.

AND SOMETIMES IT DOESN’T MAKE A BIT OF SENSE!!! How can a cross—an instrument of Roman power and death—represent God’s power?

We think we know everything. We think this life is all there is to live. We think death is losing. But we forget what Rome used to claim its own victory, Jesus made his. No, Jesus made ours.  That the cross is the shape of winning.

Sometimes in our grief, we forget that. We forget that death—the original unintended consequence of creation—isn’t a part of God’s plan. But that we have a God who will get his way. And his way is to claim his children forever; whatever the cost. So God sent his son to lay down his life so that when we lay down ours, like him, we find it again and this time forever.

We don’t choose death. We choose life. Because the cross is the shape of victory.

It won’t be easy to say goodbye to my friends. I trust you know the feeling. But I pray for the faith and hope that these men embody, and I pray you may have it too.

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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.