I Cor 9: 24-27 Do you not know that in a race, the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way tht you may win it. Athletes exercise self control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So, I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as tho beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that ate proclaiming to others, I myself should not be disqualified..
Epiphany 6 B 2009 Grace,Peace, from Θ our Father & L/S JsX amen
Story of Naaman, leper healed by Jesus frustrating:
≠ know the “what next?”
Of course, we know that Naaman, a few more verses later:
Wants to take dirt from Israel, As reminder to worship Yahweh;
Leper healed by Jesus: Can’t wait to tell others, Despite injunction to contrary.
But then what? Did they enter into old life as normal; No change?
Return to job, family, put whole sad episode behind them, Act as if it never happened?
We’ll never know re: them, But what if it had been you or I?
If / when we have been made well,Do we continue on, unchanged?
Me: blessed w/ relatively good health, But learned an awful lot re: my body & my spirit
After broken hand 5 yrs ago. Many of you know, one Feb day, closed doorknob wrong,
Shattered bone in back of my hand. Rq’d surgery: plate, 4 screws, “interior cast”
holding in place while bones knit together; Also, exterior splint preventing muscle movement
That would disrupt / displace pieces of bone.
No pain to speak of, but uncomfortable for sleep, Impossible to dress w/out help.
Tricky driving; already poor typing skills: cut in ½. Could not wait to get cast off,
Stitches out & get back to life as usual. --- Except – and those of you who have had similar experiences know –
when they finally unbound all the gauze, removed the splint, & freed my hand ........
I couldn’t move it at all! ..... Not one bit. Couldn’t wiggle my fingers, ≠ make a fist, ≠ bend my wrist.
Scary! Every tendon, every muscle in my hand = atrophied to uselessness.
Intellectually, I knew: weaker, but this! Would I ever regain full use of my hand? Type? Play violin? Work in my yard?
Dr. ≠ seemed concerned: Set me up w/ Occupational therapy: 3x’s week for 6-8 wks.
Mon/Weds/Fri – whatever else on schedule, Whatever the weather, Whatever my mood:
Got in car, drove to Lodi to hand rehabilitation specialist, Dipped my hand in warm paraffin,
Then, after muscles warmed up, Therapist massaged, & manipulated, Every muscle & bone in my hand,
Stretched and contracted them, Measured my progress. And then, part I hated most, put my hand in ice pack ≈ 10 min.
Slowly at first, then more rapidly, Strength returned, regained function,
& except for slight scar – very little evidence of original injury.
Point = Θ’s amazing design of our body, allowing it to knit back together so beautifully –
Would have been wasted on me If I hadn’t followed dr’s orders to the letter: Gone to my therapy, done the exercises.
I would have a totally healed bone – In an entirely useless hand…
Paul understood the potential problems. And the Corinthians were beginning to fall into a spiritual trap:
“healed” in X; but needed to incorporate healing into living: Dangers: fall back into old ways
Corinth = quite cosmopolitan place, Lots of attractions, distractions, temptations.
People who had come to believe in Jesus, who had been baptized into the community of faith
Were beginning to see nothing incompatible between Xn faith & pagan practices:
Gluttony, prostitution, idol worship; Some saw no problem in ignoring problems of poor in their midst.
They were in danger of being lured away, Back into lives they lived before knowing Jesus’ saving grace.
They risked becoming like the seeds in Jesus parable, Quick to take root in shallow soil, but equally quick to perish.
Worse, they were themselves becoming obstacles to others who might be looking for a reason to believe in Jesus.
If nothing had changed for them, others might say, What does Jesus have to offer me??
I understand that Graham Kerr – “Galloping Gourmet” (70’s?) for many years, lived a lifestyle as excessive as his cooking show. He was introduced to Jesus, was baptized, became Xn, but in effort not to appear as “Jesus freak” didn’t behave differently around friends & family – He didn’t want to “put them off”.
Finally one of them said – what is the point of all this religion you got if you are still the same old Graham?
From that point on, he began to live into the faith that had claimed him.
We have seen examples in our sports icons of not living up to the standards of the sport – and we know: standards apply to off-court /field as well as ON: Otherwise, we wouldn’t care that Gold-medalist Michael Phelps was caught on camera smoking pot. (≠ 1st x, I’m told). Lot’s of 23 yr olds smoke a joint now & again --many say, what’s the big deal?
The big deal is, as a nationally known athlete, one to whom many young people look up to,
He has, willingly or not, taken on the burden of being an eg. of what “healthy” & “fit” mean.
Since he has been witnessed in unhealthy behavior, he has disqualified himself from his own field, at least for the time being; He has made himself unfit as an example of fitness.
& he ≠ alone: Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod), Barry Bonds, & others
Put their reputations at risk, along w/ credibility of the sport that they love in their willingness to ignore game standards.
When we mis-step in our faith journeys, we might deprive those who witness our misuse of Xn freedom , of an opportunity to trust Jesus @ work in their own lives… It ≠ just “public” Xns like Pr.’s Jim Baker & Ted Haggard whose behavior endangers ability of gospel mssg to be heard -- it could be yours & mine, as well.
Paul calling wandering community back to “right practice”
1) For sake of own spiritual strength to be there when times tough
2) For sake of community – reminder that letter to Corinth
so far = re: not mistaking Xn liberty
as license to do as please;
Ppl claimed/ named by Θ have new purpose
: ours: live as citizens of Kingdom of God, & inviting others
Thus, we become people who live, not as we please, But as Θ pleases.
Ralph Stockton says, in book “How to Believe”:
“too many are waiting for Θ to do something for them rather than with them.
In other words, our salvation ≠ just re: us – It is re: the world & Θ’s eternal kingdom.
And to remain part of that, we must live into that.
How do we do that??
a) Focus: goals: Story told re: Thomas Henry Huxley, 19th century paleontologist.
Late getting off to give a lecture. Jumped into a cab & shouted, “Top speed!”
The cabdriver whipped the horse & they took off as fast as the horse could run.
Suddenly, Huxley stuck his head out the window & called to the driver –
“Wait a minute! Do you know where I want to go?”
The cabbie shouted back, “No, your honor, but I am going as fast as I can!”
It helps, when running a race, or moving the ball down field or court to know where & what the goal is.
As Christians, our most important goals are to live as trustworthy citizens of Θ’s kingdom, and to invite others into KΘ as well.
How do we stay focused?
Helpful are the ancient traditional “disciplines” of church;
Discipline ≠ to be associated w/ pain, punishment;
But connected to “disciple” i.e. “student”
Spiritual disciplines are our “homework” as students of Js
Often divided into 3 kinds: There are the "inward" disciplines :
meditation, prayer, fasting, and study
These help us connect spiritually w/Θ & keep an eye on the barometer of our souls.
The "outward" disciplines = of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.
These put us in a proper attitude toward others & toward the things of life around us.
Finally, there are the "corporate" disciplines: confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
In these, we learn to be the Body of X. And it is here that we will find our team-mates for training.
As Paul & the Corinthians knew,there is always a need to be on guard against
Lurking distractions. Just as an athlete can be distracted from her goal
By exhaustion, longing for comfort, or by fame’s spotlight, we too can be distracted in our Christian training:
• Physical & emotional pain
• Discouraging circumstances
• Sense of failure
• Promises of an easier journey (Pinocchio: lured away to Island of Lost boys)
All of these can turn us aside from our path.
Eg: grandpa’s story of football & slipped stocking…
Distraction of vanity/modesty, cost team touchdown.
One of the gifts of community is that we
Root each other on, call each other back.!
Θ is calling you today. Perhaps to a renewal of your commitment to the “team”
And to your spiritual disciplines – Which keep you strong in your faith,and focused on the prize Christ has won for us.
Or maybe, you are hearing the call for the first time: Jesus saying, Come, be healed, & follow me!
But be warned against 2 dangers:
1) “Phariseeism” Making the discipline itself the goal
Rather than means to end…Legalism; harsh, ≠♥.
Gift/Prize -- ≠ earn Θ’s ♥ -- ours already;
but ability to recognize it & to trust in Θ’s sustaining presence during hard times;
≠ re: “winning” (X has already won “prize” of eternal life for us) but the joy in participation;
2) Xnty -- rather, Jesus, calls forth our whole life.
To be Xn ≠ a part-time hobby, just for weekends or when there's nothing else to do, or to be fashionable.
To follow X is life itself ;
And what we are called to do/ be = re: what = ultimate good for our eternal sake & sake of the KΘ.
Tom Landry once said: “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”
Jesus wants all of who we are – So he can make us be all of who we = created to be..
Haphazard, now-and-again training
≠ build spiritual muscle,
≠ lead to spiritual health
& ≠ win the spiritual race.
Instead: “weekend-warrior” syndrome, lack of stamina, risk of injury, giving up entirely.
Regular training, inward, outward & corporate disciplines will however be used by X to build our spiritual muscle.
Then, more & more each day, we will discover X ≠ mere hobby, but indeed, our live & our living.
Sprinters in Olympics : “Fastest race: 100 meter sprint”
The current men's world record of 9.69 s
= held by Usain Bolt of Jamaica,
(who just yesterday won 400 m. 46.35 seconds Camper
Down Classic in Kingston, Jamaca)
set at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games final on August 16, 2008.
The current women's world record of 10.49 s was set by
Florence Griffith-Joyner of the USA, in Indianapolis, Indiana,
on 16 July 1988. .
Races = brief – (fleeting almost) but training yrs & yrs of practice, work, sacrifice
Just for one single moment of glory.
Final reminder: even “fit” persons need to continue being active to stay fit –
walk, bike, “maintenance” routine @ gym --- “ if you rest, you rust” (Did I get this from Thess???)
Even lifelong Xns need to stay firmly rooted in practices that keep our faith strong…
Called: “Habits of the Heart” – develop & maintain: strength of character; deeper spiritual roots;
Provide shelter in life’s storms.
There is always more peace to be gained from prayer,
More knowledge to be mined from scripture,
Deeper love to be had in fellowship of body of X..
Lifelong Xn or new to the journey – Saved entirely by grace, but need to live into that grace:
Fitness counts – Θ’s gym = open;
So in famous W’s of one more icon of sports,
Nike -- “just do it” amen
gardeners know all the best dirt!