Four out of Five Dentists Approved this Sermon

February 18, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

My pastor preached a sermon yesterday on Building Character.  Audio Version Here Written Version Here

This is part 3 of a 4-part series on Character.  The first was about Character itself and a little about virtues.  The second part was on whether or not suffering builds character.

This week’s sermon was about building character.

Rev. Jeff Vamos talked a lot about practices and how we improve our character by behaving as if a desired practice or attribute were already part of our character.  He added an illustration.  One of the good habits that he picked up after getting married was flossing.  Up until that point he hadn’t flossed but now he was a confirmed flosser.  He talked about the benefits of flossing to all parts of the body (apparently flossing is correlated with good heart health).  This portion of his sermon is the reason for the title of this blog entry.

He also provided other examples.  He quoted a story from CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity.  A man who was not particularly handsome wore a mask for years that was beautiful.  At the end of those years he took off the mask and looked in a mirror.  He discovered that his face had grown to match the shape of the mask and that he was now handsome in his own right.  This metaphor illustrates the point – do the right thing and doing the right thing will become second nature.

In Confirmation Class after this service we talked a bit about what people remembered from the sermon.  Once we finished talking about floss it became clear that the points of the sermon and particularly the illustrations had sunk in with the confirmands and mentors.  The Confirmation class lesson was on the Christian Worldview.  One of the key points was that as Christians we are expected to BE the church IN the world.  Church is not something that we put on as we park in the lot or along Route 206, and then take off as we leave the building.  Church, Christian, Godly – these are things that we are expected to take with us into the world.  More that that – this is what we are expected to BE to the world.  We are called to be and do what Christ wants us to be and do with everyone.

Jeff touched on this in the sermon.  He spoke of how Steven Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People suggests that people write a mission statement for their life.  Our pastor has challenged us to do the same.  (And Jeff realizes that now HE has to write one)

Now, corporate mission statements tend to be short and to the point but also very vague and buzzwordy.  My employer’s mission statement (at least it’s printed on the mug they gave us labeled “Mission Statement”) is “Enriching people’s lives through beautifully designed and crafted products.”  Pretty vague, eh?

I prefer a list of goals or rules to live by.  I accept the challenge.  Here they are:

Mark’s Goals for How to Live His Life

  • Know yourself, and be authentic.  Be yourself as much as possible in each situation.  Build a reputation for honesty, openness, and willingness to speak your opinion.
  • Behave ethically.  Do not cheat others.  Take only what you have earned or are willingly given.  Build a reputation for trustworthiness and ethics.
  • Be courageous in your dealings with others.  Speak truth to power.
  • Help the underdog.  Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  Speak to your friends on behalf of those who are in conflict with them.
  • Deal respectfully and honestly with your enemies, even if they do not do the same with you.
  • Help other people as much as you can.
  • Try new things.  Move out of your comfort zone and grow.
  • Be dependable.  If you say you will do it, do it.  Exceed expectations where possible.
  • Be a loving husband.  Treat Carolyn at least as well as you treat others and usually better.
  • Be a loving person.  Show love to all who are able to accept it from you.  Quietly love the rest.
  • Be nice to animals.  Take special care of any pets that are your responsibility.
  • Be generous with your resources.  Your resources are like manure – they aren’t worth a damn unless you spread them around, encouraging things to grow.
  • Your talents are some of your resources.  See above.
  • Expect the best from others, but allow them room not to meet your expectations.  Accept failure from others more often than you do from yourself.
  • Take other people at face value.  It is more dangerous to try to read their minds than to accept that they are being authentic to you.
  • Be sure to care for yourself.  Guard your health without impeding your other goals.  Practice moderation.
  • Grow spiritually.
  • Model the behavior that Christ desires to others.
  • Have fun.  Sprinkle humor liberally throughout your life.
  • Eat your vegetables.
  • Floss.

As you read this and think of me, please remember that these are goals.  I’m no more likely to be completely successful than you are.  It’s taken me almost 40 years to willingly eat my vegetables (though I have been flossing since college).  The goal about taking people at face value took a LONG time to learn.

How about you, readers?  Anybody else want to take a stab as a mission statement or set of goals?