June 09, 2008

Looking Ahead to June 15, 2008 -- 5th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:

The Hymns for this week are:

  • 222 Come Let Us Sing
  • 624 Give to Us Laughter
  • 508 Just As I Am
  • 649 Walk With Me

The sermon title is Producing Character

Early Thoughts: How do we learn character? How do we teach it? How do we become people of good character?

There is so much to preach in the passage from Romans. There is in it the basis for the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith. THere is space to talk about forgiveness and redemption. But the passage that jumped out at me this week was right in the middle of the passage

3But that's not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope 5that will never disappoint us.
Here we have one reason that life includes suffering, a reason that we have likely heard before. Suffering builds character!

Building character is a tricky thing to define or describe. Countless parents have agonized over how best to raise children "of good character". Last month at the Conference Annual meeting we passed a motion which affirmed the Manitoba Department of Education for developing a character education piece of the curiculum. (In it's original form this motion called on the government to create such a thing -- until it was pointed out that they already had.)

But even then it is hard to say what that means. Does building charcter mean creating people who meekly submit to authority, children who are compliant and obedient? Partly. But part of being a person of character means standing up against authority. It means asking questions. It means standing for what is right even when it isn't popoular. Is that what our character education efforts create?

But back to Paul. Paul says that suffering leads to endurance which leads to character. And I think there is (some) wisdom there. Character comes over time. Character comes with a degree of trial and error. Character, in the end, can't really be taught but its development can/should/must be encouraged. So yes, suffering bears some role. When we never struggle in life we lose a chance for some of that trial and error, for some of that development. At the same time we have to be careful not to over-emphasize the growth potential in suffering. When we do that we have a tendency to minimize the negative. It can be a great way to avoid asking ourselves why people suffer (and the courage ask and act on that question is a measure of our character).

It is easy to lose hope in our society. Reading or watching the news gives us a litany of sadness and all too often highlights the brokenness of the world. But then there is that last step in Paul's list. Building character leads to hope. When we cultivate character development in ourselves, in our children, in our neighbour's, in all the world there is hope. People of character are the ones who can steer the changes of our society. And that is indeed cause for hope.

Join us on Sunday as we talk about what it means to preduce people of character. Of course we might need to figure out what a person of character is first.


  1. Thanks for these reflections. I think I've been going straight from suffering to hope, without stopping much to reflect on endurance and character. I'm also fervently avoiding the "You're suffering so God can teach you a lesson/make you a better person" idea. So UNhelpful.

    I'll check back in later so we can compare notes. Glad to see I'm not alone with Paul this week!

  2. These are great thoughts. I think you've helped me narrow down my sermon. Thank you!