God’s call to the good wine of excellence (“If I were teaching” Week 3)

– Derek Maul

Welcome to Week 3 of “If I were teaching Sunday school today.” The series is titled (in the catalog, if there was one) “A Charge of Life.”

Let’s start with links to the first two weeks.

  1. New Weekly Feature” – introduces the concept.
  2. Then “JESUS” – explores who Jesus is and who Jesus is to us.

This week we will be diving into the word “EXCELLENCE” and what that can mean for new and renewed life in our journey as disciples. 

Opening Prayer:

Thank you, loving God and living Lord, for continuing to guide us in our study and to lead us in our daily walk. Help us to dig deeply into your word, and to be curious enough in our faith to ask penetrating questions. We are not interested in mediocre or unremarkable. We want our life in you to be defined by excellence. Amen

Some thoughts to begin:

On some level I must have been thinking about this topic all week, because much of what I wrote in the post “Why – or why not – return to church post-covid?” touched on the idea that many congregations will have a tough time getting going again because they are mired in mediocrity and indifference. If you missed it, I’d recommend taking a look now.

I have come to understand that the intention for excellence is built in to every aspect of how God designed me and – in consequence – what God expects of me.

Back in my 20’s I remember watching the movie “Chariots of Fire.” It would be the perfect story to share if I were still teaching my class at WFPC, because the hero – Eric Liddell – went on to China as a Presbyterian missionary.

There was this great line I’ll never forget because it resonated with my experience. Liddell ran inefficiently, with his head thrown back and joy all over his face. And when he was challenged by a dour elder who found running frivolous, he replied by saying, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

And – as the fastest teenager in my district and the second fastest in Southeast England – I knew exactly how he felt.

I felt the same way playing soccer at a high level. Eventually I felt that way achieving academic honors in college, developing a cutting-edge program as a teacher, leading men’s groups at church, writing books, and leading conferences as a speaker.

Loving Rebekah too, growing as a husband and father, serving God in various ways. All these things are exhilarating when we put our hearts and souls into them and do our absolute best.

  • When I love, I feel God’s pleasure.
  • When I teach, I feel God’s pleasure.
  • When I write, I feel God’s pleasure.
  • When I do anything excellent I feel God’s pleasure.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What are some of the things we excel at? Not in terms of bragging, but recognizing where God has blessed us. Everyone share at least two things/skills/abilities/achievements.
  2. Do we feel a sense of God’s purpose and blessing when we do these things?
  3. Have you ever really considered excellence as a spiritual practice before?
  4. What are the implications of thinking this way about faith and excellence?

Scripture Reading:

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:7-11

My wife, Rebekah, often uses this scripture at weddings.

Her essential point is that the wedding in Cana was going along like any other party until Jesus gets involved, and then it goes from average to amazing.

This is the invitation offered at any joining together in marriage. Do we want things to be run-of-the-mill or do we want them to be brought to life by Jesus?

How can we possibly pass up the opportunity to have Jesus serve the best wine?

Then she suggests that maybe the couple at the wedding in Cana saved a jug of the good stuff, and brought it out on their anniversary every year, seeing how the sweetness and the love in it had aged to perfection. Just like the relationship, the family where Jesus is at the center.

Jesus doesn’t mess around!

With Jesus everything is better! Better wine at the wedding; better love in our committed relationships; better performance at work because when we honor Jesus we honor him with our best; better creativity; better joy; better everything…

Jesus did not invite us into mediocre life but life with abundance, more and better life than we could ever imagine.

Conclusion and discussion:

Let’s have another conversation that should help to bring this class to a conclusion for today.

How about sharing where you feel challenged to invite the Jesus quality of excellence into your life? Maybe it is in an important relationship? Maybe witnessing to the creative life of Jesus by bringing his kind of “wine” to work? Maybe being more excellent in generosity, or kindness, or forgiveness….?

So share how and where you feel God is leading you to be more excellent. This is also how we can pray for one-another.

Next week we will talk about “Passion” and how it can add a charge of life to our faith – DEREK

Let’s pray:

Thank you again, Lord Jesus, for always serving the best wine. Thank you also for reminding us that God has created us for the best and nothing less. So we recommit ourselves to serving you in this way, and telling the glorious truth about the Gospel of Love by living your kind of life with excellence and with joy. In the name of Jesus, who makes all this possible. Amen.

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