By Mandy Sayers
Lead Pastor, Glen Mar UMC, Ellicott City
It seems I came out of the womb driven: six weeks premature back in 19-something-something, determined to arrive early, get moving, survive and achieve. I tried very hard to excel at everything, and of course, failed a lot in the process. I found Vince Lombardi to be not far off the mark, though, in his words, “We are going to pursue perfection and in so doing, we will catch excellence.”
I threw my whole mind into schooling and getting good grades. The more difficult a subject was, the more I enjoyed it. And the times the grades were not what I wanted, I knew I had tried my very best to excel. I went to a good college and I got into law school. I passed bar exams. I practiced law. Ah yes, dear ones, I wanted to excel.
Here’s the rub, though. Jesus’ notion of greatness and achievement looks a little different than how I thought of it as a kid. Jesus said if you would excel, be a servant. If you would excel in the kingdom, get humble.
Greatness is measured not so much in being better than the other person, but in putting their needs first, lifting them up, and showing them love. Excellence is putting forgiveness over “being right” sometimes. Jesus’ picture of “excellence” and Paul’s picture of “excellence” look like bearing with one another in love and washing one another’s feet.
Maybe as we turn our eyes again toward the start of a school year, you too are hoping for “all A’s” or at least “a gentleman’s C.” As we start another academic year, and churches across the conference bless backpacks and donate school supplies, of course it is God’s desire for us to learn all we can (love the Lord your God with your whole…MIND…). But maybe excelling in God’s eyes involves using that learning to bless somebody, to resist an Empire, to share God’s hope, to embody God’s love. Maybe excelling isn’t about who finishes first in the kingdom (I hear the last shall be first, anyway). Maybe it’s about all finishing together, and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” because we invested everything we had in God’s Project for the world.
Now that would be….excellent.
By Daryl Williams
Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Oxon Hill
I love the time that I get to spend with the youth in my church. They are always so enthusiastic, joyful, energetic and talkative, at least until they become teenagers. I love hearing them talk about their hopes and dreams for the future and especially what they want to be when they grow up.
I have one youth who wants to be the best point guard the Washington Wizards have ever had. I have another who wants to be the best doctor in the world.
Not to be out done, I have another young person who, because her school bus driver is so bad, wants to grow up to be the best bus driver in the universe.
Over and over these youth amaze me with their ability to think big, aim high and want to be the best at whatever they do.
We are all hard-wired to want to excel. The only problem is sometimes life intervenes and conspires to lower our expectations of ourselves and the world. It happens the day you forget that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and start comparing yourself to others.
When you start comparing yourself to others, you forget that you are gifted and prepared to excel just the way you are. All you have to do is remember that you, the way you are, are made to excel.
So, from this day forward, pledge to yourself that you will excel with the gifts that you have; that you will remember that little voice in you that wanted to be the best ever.
We can’t all be the best at everything that we do, but we can try to excel and be the best that we can be.
Commit each day to work as unto the Lord, doing your best, being your best, and giving your best.
If you put your talents to use every day, you will be the best and you will excel.