A Spirit of Excellence

Kevin Altman (’13)
October 18, 2012
Philippians 4:8

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”


Image courtesy wordle.net

Close your eyes.
I want you to clear your mind without falling asleep.
I want you to think about everything that makes you unique to all others.  Every ability, every gift you have in your life.  everything which breathes power into your soul and allows you to create and I want you to, in this moment, THANK God for it.

I am going to convey a tenet of my faith to you this evening.  The bible is not the essential element that constructs my connection to God.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good book…   In my relationship with God, it all revolves around one concept: Excellence.  Excellence, given to us by God, is each and every one of our gifts inside us. We are made in God’s image, right?  Genesis 1:27, all that jazz.    God may not have a nose, two eyes and my Greek-statue physique, but I interpret that to mean inside all of us is some perfection of God- but Excellence is our ability to freeze a moment of pure pleasure, pure delight, to comprehend what God gives us  share a moment between us and God.

Think about everything you do well.  Andrew plays the piano so well, it can inspire a congregation to think higher.  Laura’s smile and genuine interest in all our lives, illuminates any cloudy day.  Mark can preach a sermon capable of changing your whole life. Isabelle writes with command and form to tell stories we only see in our dreams, Ian is always prepared with a heart warming joke or keen religious insight and Ethan can eat more doughnuts than any man alive and not puke…. These are some of our excellences.

Everything that makes you unique, makes you excellent.  We can be our own person and still be united in God.  I like being my own person with my own opinions, my own ideas, my own tooth brush.  It would be boring to see everyone out there just like me.  If I wanted that, I would just sit in front of the mirror and admire my reflection all day.  That’s already how I spend my mornings, I don’t need to do that all the time.

We talk of God sightings here.  We talk of ways in which God is present and active in our lives.  I see God in each and every one of you with everything you excel in, with every ounce of heart that allows you to persevere through the some times chaotic college mess, I see Him in you.

I implore you to see God in this way too.  Let us see God’s hand in beautiful books, in the most wonderful compositions of music, the sweet fruits and foods we eat, the laughs and tears we share with our friends, but most importantly, let us see our shared excellence with God down to every breath of oxygen we absorb into our lungs.

Every breath.  Every breath gives you life.  Life is beautiful because it gives us the opportunity to know our Creator.  We slog through the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, months, semesters, years just so we can get the one thing we want more than anything: Money.  No, Sorry.  Happiness.  That’s what I meant.    Freeze this moment.  Freeze this moment when you can recognize all the joys in your life and all the gifts that the Lord has given to you.  Freeze this moment and let us all accept the communion, the gift of grace that is, in fact, a moment of remembrance of Christ- And we shall all depart here from dark night into the morning and we shall understand who we are a little more, Children of God, Children of Excellence.

As Christians, Jews, Muslims, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the haze that if we keep pushing to the horizon, the end, everything will be fine.  If I can just make it to that point, ill be in Heaven and paradise and will never struggle again, because you will miss IT ALL.

What IS important is that you appreciate every day.  That is something you can do by acknowledging your own excellence and living in a moment.  We must accept our futures, our fates, but don’t look too far.  We must remember our paths, but don’t LOOK behind you.    Unless someone actually yells, “Look out behind you!” then you should definitely look behind you or else you might get attacked by an attractive teenage vampire.

There was an ancient thought that the stars were supposed to be the lights of heaven peering through blackness.  I say, the lights, the proof and reminder of Heaven is in all of you. We all have doubts, physical afflictions, fluctuating mental states.  In the journeys of or lives we find ourselves in dark woods where the straight way is lost.   But in all our gifts, our abilities, our will to fight on, we can overcome them, because in all the wonders and beauties we hold, we hold them in His name.  Some times we can feel the heat of the world on us and it can hurt.  But we must proclaim to whatever hinders us as Dante wrote: “I am made by God, thanks be to Him, such that your misery toucheth me not, nor doth the flame of this burning assail me.”    In all the excellence God gives to us, that is how we may know Heaven while on earth, give thanks for every second of life, every blink of the eye, or step on the ground! Remember tonight, for it is the beginning of always.

Let us thank our Father, and depart from night and into the morning of a new day.  Confident in who we are as His grandest excellence.