Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 103; 150, Isaiah 57:1-13, Hebrews 12:1-6,John 7:37-46
When we identify strongly with a team, we celebrate when that team does well and feel the loss when it does poorly. We call it “our” team and say “we” played great last night, even though “we” have never set foot on a professional field. The sense of community among fans may help us feel included and part of something larger than ourselves. These are good things, but we don’t want to lose sight of reality; after all, “fan” is short for “fanatic.”
Paul had many kind words for newer Christian churches, but he also felt the need to let the air out of their tires a little. Compared to some churches, they’d had it pretty easy. He reminded them: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” It was wonderful to be on Team Jesus, but they hadn’t yet played under duress. None of us knows with complete certainty how we’ll react under pressure until we actually do. When newer churches hadn’t yet felt the squeeze of the Christian big leagues, Paul did have advice about how to prepare: “let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” In other words, if you want to be more than a fan – to be a real part of the “we” – put in the training.
Monday morning quarterbacks believe they could have played a better game. Are we ever Monday morning Christians? After Sunday services, do we look at the world and believe we could do as well as, or better than, people who are struggling across the globe or in the pew next to us? Without being in their shoes, we don’t know. If we want to be more than fans of Christ, if we want to wear the jersey, we need to put ourselves through the paces until we sweat compassion and bleed forgiveness. Only then do we truly learn that judging doesn’t move us toward the goal, but supporting each other does.
Comfort: If you’re putting in the effort, God doesn’t make cuts.
Challenge: Rather than criticizing or gossiping about people who fall short, find constructive ways to help them regain their footing.
Prayer: God of mercy, teach me to be merciful. Amen.
Discussion: Academically gifted students are often called upon to tutor. Are you aware of any programs where students who are athletically gifted are called to do the same? If not, why do you think not? If so, what was that like?
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