Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Gulf Breeze UMC
Senior Pastor Note—February 3, 2011

The Life Lived Well--

What is the life lived well?

Several years ago, I read William Bennett's book, "The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories". It was a wonderful read that unveiled a set of commonly held principles for how civilized societies both approach and make decisions in regards to important issues.

Many of Mr. Bennett's "virtues" come from the Judeo-Christian framework, and he is not afraid to link his moral conversation with faith.

Recently, I read the book again. True to form, I was captured by the stories of moral challenge and courage. To think if we could-- if we would-- aspire to these principles.

In particular, five virtues from Mr. Bennett’s book stood out as critical to the life lived well. Each virtue unveiled itself through stories of hope and perseverance, and served as a "destination" for our moral discourse—the intersection for both how and why we arrive where we are in life.

These five principles are tools by which we find our voice, the song we are to sing, and the melody that makes it all so sweet.

The virtues for a life lived well are:

1. Honor

Honor is how we act when relaying our beliefs. Jesus said that they will know you are mine by "how you love one another". Our actions bear on the outside what we believe on the inside.

Thomas Carlyle says Show me the man you honor and I will know what kind of man you are.

Focus Scripture: Deuteronomy 26: 16-19

2. Purity

The dictionary connects 'purity' with 'freedom'. In fact, purity is "freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, pollutes, or leads to inappropriate elements in our lives". Purity is not the absence of particular vices, but, rather, the presence of something deeper and richer—the freedom to “become” all that God intends.

Focus Scripture: Proverbs 27: 21

3. Loyalty

I love the story of Babe Ruth and the later days of his career. For so many years, his bat had the power of a cannon, and his record of 714 home runs remained unbroken until Hank Aaron came along. The Babe was the idol of sports fans, but in time age took its toll, and his popularity began to wane. Finally the Yankees traded him to the Braves. In one of his last games in Cincinnati, Babe Ruth began to falter. He struck out and made several misplays that allowed the Reds to score five runs in one inning. As the Babe walked toward the dugout, chin down and dejected, there rose from the stands an enormous storm of boos and catcalls. Some fans actually shook their fists. Then a wonderful thing happened. A little boy jumped over the railing, and with tears streaming down his cheeks he ran out to the great athlete. Unashamedly, he flung his arms around the Babe's legs and held on tightly. Babe Ruth scooped him up, hugged him, and set him down again. Patting him gently on the head, he took his hand and the two of them walked off the field together.

We are as good a friend as the distance we travel when the going gets tough—Unknown.

Focus Scripture: Proverbs 3: 3-6

4. Integrity

James Patterson and Peter Kim, in The Day America Told the Truth, asked “What are you willing to do for $10,000,000?” In a shocking report, the authors revealed that 2/3 of Americans polled would agree to at least one, some to several of the following answers:

Would abandon their entire family (25%)
Would abandon their church (25%)
Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
Would give up their American citizenships (16%)
Would leave their spouses (16%)
Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
Would kill a stranger (7%)
Would put their children up for adoption (3%)

Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 4: 11-14

5. Gratitude

More than just “thank you” and a letter of appreciation, gratitude is the barometer of what we truly value in life. Nothing highlights what we consider most important than what we take the time to treasure and recognize.

Scripture Focus: Luke 17: 16-17

Scientists now say that a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic. The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage, from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.

The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash in the side of the liner. But an international team of divers and scientists recently used sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water. Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.

Small damage, invisible to most, can sink not only a great ship but also a great reputation.

The materials with which we build our lives matter. They demonstrate our commitment to a life that makes the most of every moment, and seizes, not just the day, but also the reason for living it.

My prayer for all of us is that we examine the markers for our journey, and reflect on those ways we might right our paths, celebrate the distance traveled so far, and look beyond the horizon to the promises where we have yet to arrive.

Be Salt and Light… You Matter!


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