This sermon is dedicated to Linn Flint,
Our incredible Office Administrator for the past 20 years.
We celebrated her ministry and retirement on May 14, 2023.
Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church, UCC
May 14, 2023
I was going to read a passage from II Chronicles 3. In the essence of time, I’ll just tell you about it. It’s a description of the dimensions and materials that were to be used for the great temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple – one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. It was made by the finest craftsmen, using the finest materials to honor God. Much like the great cathedrals throughout Europe, they believed that God deserved excellence. Beauty and excellence honor God.
Daniel 6:1-5 – three quick things to note before we look at the passage:
- Satraps were basically governors; they ruled over a large area
- This occurs during the Babylonian exile when the Jews in Babylon, hundreds of miles from their homeland. It was an awful time in their history.
- Darius is the King of Babylon.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred twenty satraps, stationed throughout the whole kingdom, 2 and over them three administrators, one of whom was Daniel; to these the satraps gave account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Soon Daniel distinguished himself above the other administrators and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom. 4 So the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him. 5 The men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
In the passage I just read, Daniel is a Jew living in Babylon during the Babylonian exile. He worked his way up through the Babylonian government, eventually becoming one of the 3 “presidents” (administrators) in charge of 120 governors. We don’t have an equivalent for that, but it was a position of great responsibility.
How could Daniel a Jew get such a responsible position?
Vs. 3 – Daniel distinguished himself above the other administrators and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him.
“An excellent spirit was in him.”
Other translations say, he distinguished himself because of his “exceptional qualities.”
The Good News Bible says, Daniel did “better work than the other supervisors or the governors. Because he was so outstanding, the king considered putting him in charge of the whole empire.”
Daniel was committed to excellence. This honored his God and his people and brought him into a position of great influence. Daniel stood out, even in Babylon.
This is a theme in the Bible – striving for excellence, no matter where you are – in comfortable, familiar settings and in uncomfortable, unfamiliar settings.
Joseph was so outstanding in applying his skills in Egypt that rises to 2nd in command over the whole nation. Excellence honors God and often puts one is a position to be used by God for divine purposes. So during a famine in Israel, when Joseph’s family comes to Egypt looking for food, Joseph can help them. He’s in charge of food distribution. His commitment to excellence served him well and he was used by God to save his entire family. His family of course becomes the Jewish people.
One more example . . .
Nehemiah was in Persia, serving Artaxerxes the emperor of Persia. He’s so respected by the king that when he tells the king that he’s depressed because his city lies in ruins, the king not only allows him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it, the king finances the project. Nehemiah’s commitment to excellence honored the God he served and so he was able to play an important role in rebuilding Jerusalem after the exile. Nehemiah had a very simple job serving the king, but he did it in such a way that he earned the respect and favor of the king.
John W. Gardner once wrote: Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Colin Powell: If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.
Aristotle once said, ‘Excellence is not a singular act; it’s a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.’
Psalm 33:3 – – Sing to God a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
“Play Skillfully” and then he tells us why –
Sing to God a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the Lord is upright (God is our True North),
and all God’s work is done in faithfulness.
5 God loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
Play skillfully to honor the God who is faithful, righteous, just, and loving. That God deserves our finest efforts. That God deserves that we strive for excellence.
Martin Luther: “Does a Christian shoemaker make Christian shoes?” “No, but he makes good shoes.”
Excellence honors our Creator, doesn’t it?
- It expresses faithfulness to God, to use the abilities God has given us.
Jesus worked in the carpentry trade, for a number of years, since he didn’t start his public ministry until age 30. Do you think he was a pretty good carpenter? Do you think he made precise cuts? “Measure twice, cut once.”
Do you think he ever cut corners?
Do you think anyone ever said: “Look at that. Jesus of Nazareth built that, and now it’s falling apart.”
I’ll bet no one ever said that. I’ll bet his worked was marked by excellence.
I chose this topic today because for the past 20 years Linn Flint has had a commitment to excellence, and like these biblical stories, she has honored God through her work and blessed all of us. We must continue that legacy of excellence – in big things, in little things.
Excellence is a habit.
It’s always striving to do our best. It’s striving to improve.
In Linn’s absence, we would be wise to recommit ourselves to excellence – for our sakes . . . for God’s sake.
To further illustrate that Excellence Honors God, I’ve asked Katrina to sing The Lord’s Prayer.
To hear Katrina go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yosIXysQudc
The solo begins at 1:16.