I just read an article in the latest Faith Today magazine that was very interesting. (See the January/February issue, pp. 32-35.) It talked about the Canadian church being in exile. At one time, the church of Canada held a prominent place in Canadian culture. Many people belonged to a local church, and the church extended considerable influence in the community. But according to Lee Beach, those days are largely over. Now we are a minority in Canada. So, how should we respond? Some have chosen to isolate themselves from the larger culture. They have decided that it would be best to protect themselves and their children from the “evils” of the world. I suppose their intent is to be a city on a hill like Jesus talked about in Matthew 5. And there is some validity to this view. But others have chosen to try and engage the culture in meaningful ways, all the while seeking to remain holy and set apart, which I believe is a more fruitful approach. Actually, when you think about it, we are sort of going back to the early church era in terms of being a minority group in a large pagan (secular) world. So, we would do well to remember how the early church responded in this time and place. What did they do? They gathered regularly for prayer and worship. They carefully studied God’s Word and received the Sacraments. They gave generously to those in need. (See Acts 2.) And the church grew and extended considerable influence in the world. Yes, the Canadian church may be in exile, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference in this world as we love God and our neighbors with all of our hearts. So, let us not hide in fear in these challenging times. Instead, let us consider ways that we can extend hospitality to our community and world, so they will receive the love of Christ that they so desperately need.
Today I’d like to reflect theologically on sport. Sometimes I look around me at our Western culture and wonder if we overemphasize sports. Let’s face it, we honor and sometimes even idolize athletes more than most in our society. Part of me can understand why, as some athletes can do some pretty amazing things with their bodies. Through their sport they can delight and even amaze us. But then I think of the salary that some of our professional athletes are making, and I wonder what that says about the value of sports in our culture. Now, I’m not saying high paid athletes aren’t gifted, nor am I saying they don’t work hard. But how do we make sense of our dominant sports culture? . . . At any rate, I’d like to think about some of the benefits of sports—especially spiritual benefits. Can we grow spiritually through sport? Two ways come to mind. Through sports we can learn discipline, which can help us to deny ourselves as we’re often called to do as Christians. In order to be an athlete, you must do certain things (i.e., train hard, sleep lots, eat well, etc.), but there also certain things you must refrain from (i.e., eating certain foods, staying up too late, over-training, etc.). As Jesus says in Mark 8:34: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Seems to me that the discipline you learn in sport could help you deny yourself as a disciple of Christ. But I’m also thinking of another spiritual benefit of sport: play. We may not often associate play with the Christian life, but humans are not just made to work and worship. We’re also made to play and rest. And I think sport can help us do that too. Mind you, that may not happen if you take your sport too seriously, as some seem to do these days. How do you respond to the loss of a game? That will help you discern how important sport is to you. . . . What do you think? Can we grow spiritually through sport? I’d like to hear from you.