Monday, February 13, 2012

Tortoise and Hare 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I think I like the story of the Tortoise and Hare because I’m not a
runner. I like the idea that my slow plodding could result in a win,
however unlikely that seems. I like it because I’m usually far behind
the winner, so far that I don’t even see them win.
I has happened to me in the Annual conference 5K, which has both
walkers and runners. In fact, In San Diego, I was walking with a
couple of women (I’d like to think they were older than I was...not
sure about that.) and it became obvious that the race officials
were merely waiting for us to FINALLY get to the finish line so
they could leave.
Maybe another reason I like the story is the Hare seems to mirror life
around me. In fact, I do my share of jumping around from thing to
thing too, until I sometimes feel like I have lost my way.
Perhaps the Hare is typical of many of our lives.
Fewer and fewer people stay in one place for life.
Few of us live with same world view of our parents.
Many of us feel disconnected from the Spiritual Journey and
are not quite sure where we have made a wrong turn, or when we
jumped off the way.
As old as the biblical letters are, Paul's experiences in Corinth
may have more to say to us than any other NT letter. Ancient Corinth
was full of a variety. There was plenty of jumping around. “Situated on
the isthmus between the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese,
Corinth controlled traffic and trade.” It was known in ancient times for
its wealth and “licentiousness” and by the time of Paul it was as
cosmopolitan as any Mediterranean port.” “Corinth had an immense
cultural as well as economic influence on the surrounding territories
and other Greek-speaking provinces within the Roman empire.”1
What brought these diverse people together were the games.
The Isthmian games were a biennial event founded in 580BC
that brought prestige and revenue to this city already full of trading
partners and diverse populations.
Paul, a runner, who was burdened by the day to day problems
of his complex life that included preaching, working, and planting
churches, had to realize the potential long-range influence of a strong
church in Corinth.
We can’t image the influence of the Isthmian games on the
people. There are few things in our world to compare to the
excitement that was generated by the Grecian games, here and in
Athens. We might get an idea -- based on our own culture’s
preoccupation with last week’s Super Bowl, -- the power the athletic
image had on their lives.
And if our lives are even more complex than those in metro
Corinth and if the Journey of Faith can still be compared to races, like
the Corinthians watched, then how are we progressing?
Do you feel like you are in front of the pack... or does the view
from the back - never change?
Do you wonder, Why so many of us feel like we are
stumbling thru the race unprepared?2
Surely this community is one place where we find help and
guidance for our journey.
Yet our plodding along or our frantic running leaves many of us
without the clear conviction of ‘Why’ and ‘What for?’ Don’t we wonder,
footnote: 1 Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (San Francisco, HarperSanFran,
1985, 1996)198-200
2 Ronald J. Allen Feasting on the Word, Homiletical (Louisville:WJK,2008) 355

‘How do we make tomorrow’s agenda fit with what we hear from
We obviously don’t share his worldview from so long ago. And
we struggle to understand his perspective. We often don't know what
to think -about heaven hell, and the end of time, on which Paul was
so focused:
- Some of us believe that we are really living close to the end.
- Some think, well the end won’t be that soon, but one day God
will end history and a New Age will begin.
- Others think an apocalyptic perspective doesn’t fit with our
understand of the universe at all, but still believe God continues to
work in history to attempt to lure humans and nature to cooperate
with the divine purpose of love and justice - for all.
These thoughts about the context of our lives form the terrain on
which we run, jump or plod in the race of life. We may not like to think
about the end, but it comes none the less.
Then we face the foundations of life-necessity;
- providing shelter and food, - security and happiness, -family. They
don’t feel like mere distractions, they are important achievements and
for many of us, these necessities BECOME our goals in life.
But these are not the prize of which Paul writes. He not only refers to
an end time goal, he finds his reward in the running too.
We do agree with Paul that there are proper ways to live. When we
slow down to think about it, we know that it matters very much how
Christians live life w/one another."3

footnote: 3 Bruce Rigdon,Feasting on the Word, Pastoral (Louisville:WJK,2008) 354
We believe we should be "good" to ourselves and to each other, . . .
how many funerals have you attended where the person was
described as ‘good’? but don’t we have a nagging feeling that Jesus
and Paul were talking about more than just 'being good'.
I talk to people quite often who have arrived here (in this
church) thanks to parents and mentors who have now completed
their race. We remember their dedication. We’ve honored them at
memorials, we recall their efforts and give thanks.
If they were judging our racing towards the prize, what would they
say?. . .
There’s nothing like a guilt trip to make us reflect and think
about things we’d might otherwise push away.
If you were to write the memoir of your life as a race, reflected in the
eyes of those you most admire, what kind of athlete would you
describe? Are you a tortoise still plodding along, a hare jumping from
place to place, or a disciplined runner focused on the goal?
I think our view of the GOAL effects the way we live, don’t you?
Paul tells the Corinthians in the next chapter to ‘Watch out’ "if you
think you are standing firm, Watch out or you might fall.” (10:12)
His warning comes to all; runners, jumpers and plodders to make
sure we are headed in the right direction and haven’t left the path. His
advise calls us to consider, if we know the true goal and prize of life?
and what are we doing to condition our bodies to reach it?
As we rapidly approach Lent; we move from planning
congregational goals to introspection of our personal lives. We
need this. We must determine where we are and how we are
progressing so that we will not waste the life we have, so we can
be valuable members of this team.
Paul’s focus on the individual runner may be just what we need
to find our answers, however we envision the race and its end. (as a
lifetime or a universal event)

Runner or not we know that an athlete plans her/his exercise to
increase “competence and endurance and speed before a race.
During the race they must monitor their bodies and behavior, keep
hydrated, and pace themselves to have optimum energy at the key
moments. In the heat of the race the runner must push the body to
the limit and keep it focused on the one goal.”4
Artists, writers, and even employees must also practice a
discipline in order to accomplish the goal of a masterpiece, or a
promotion. We all have goals for which we are willing to sacrifice and
push our bodies while we discipline our minds and actions. Does your
Christian journey include the discipline a life-priority requires? And
should it not have the highest priority of all?
Paul says that every part of our lives must be disciplined, our
emotions and desires, our actions and thoughts "so that nothing
interferes w/ participating in the life of Christ.”5
We are the community that Paul is writing to, not Ancient
Corinth but modern-day Arlington. We are the ones responsible for
our own journeys. And we are the ones who have promised to
support each other as members of THIS community, of THIS body of
So, What discipline do you need for the rest of your race?
Do you need to understand your faith better in your HEAD?
Maybe you are the studious kind and the discipline you need is
a class, a book or the questions of an assignment to push you to
disciplined learning that you may understand faith and answer the
questions that flirt at the edges of your mind, and Keep you from
commitment. If so, Lent is the time for you to choose the discipline of education.
footnote: 4 Ronald J. Allen Feasting on the Word, Homiletical (Louisville:WJK,2008) 355
5 Steven Kraftchick Feasting on the Word, Exegetical (Louisville:WJK,2008) 355

Maybe you need to allow what you feel in your heart to surface and
lead the way.?
Perhaps you have been bogged down too long in the rules and
let others prescribe what you believe. Can you listen to the
acceptance Christ placed in your heart? and find your conditioning
in the support of this community of fellow racers? If so, your Lenten
commitment is to spend more time with others who are on the journey
sharing your experiences and helping each other.
or Perhaps you need to follow your gut. . .?
Do you need to hear the good news in a new way that
resonates with the athlete inside? You may need the discipline of
time alone with God; time spent in prayer and meditation that will
reinforce your focus on the goal and make you a stronger mentor to
someone else.
Or finally, Do you need to head to the gym of volunteer service
to beef up your body with physical labor?
Maybe you need to work our your legs and arms in service that
confirms what you believe and shows others the joy you find in the
running while you serve Jesus, the Christ?
Everyday that We run the race, We “proclaim the good news of
Jesus, and share with others a taste of God’s Kingdom right here and
Paul never said the journey is an easy one. “the radical path of
faith is not easy but demands us to persevere, to endure, to push
past our weariness as we approach the finish line.”
“the reward that awaits us is not a medal that is displayed one day
and then sold on eBay the next. (as one scholar wrote) Our reward is
eternal and intangible yet also vividly present now” - each day that
we live and each year that THIS congregation continues.6
We know the journey. We are in this race together. Lent begins in
10 days. We have time to choose our discipline of head, heart, gut, or
So, Get your running shoes on, do your stretches,
focus on the prize, and
whatever your style of running, you are on the way with Jesus.
What does the rest of your day hold?
Take a break from your running and jumping to reflect and
decide what discipline YOU need to reach the prize.
 all quotes in the paragraph are from Eric Barreto

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