Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sport As Worship

Am I the only person who gets more spiritually enthused by pre-game warm up exercises at a college football game than by any overly dramatic worship service at church on Sunday morning?
Am I the only one who gets a little bored at church because things are moving a little too slowly? I keep waiting for someone to get sweaty or bloody or for someone to get knocked down.
Am I a complete reprobate because I feel God’s presence more profoundly on the field of competition with sweat dripping from my forehead than I do in the air-conditioned comfort of my home church’s beautiful sanctuary?
Why am I this way? Am I totally out of touch with God’s idea of worship? Or is it possible that the real meaning of worship is broader than the cloistered connotation most of us encounter on Sunday mornings? Let’s consider a powerful and liberating scripture as we seek the Lord’s heart for worship.
Romans 12:1
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Throughout the Old Testament, a sacrifice was made by a person in worship of the Living God. The sacrifice may have been grain, liquid or an animal which would be ritually killed and burned. The sacrifice was given for God’s pleasure. The sacrifice was killed and burned to atone for sin, to restore fellowship or to express thanksgiving.
Upon Christ Jesus’ complete fulfillment of the need for burnt offerings, we find the Church and the Apostles speaking of a new kind of sacrifice, one that is living and vibrant. Men like the Apostle Paul lived each day as a living sacrifice and their scars bore witness to their commitment to please their Heavenly Father. Such men and women took incredible risks to honor the Lord Jesus and lived each day sacrificially. Many sacrificed their fortunes, their social standing, and their very lives as they declared the worth of their Lord to a hostile world.
On this side of Christ’s resurrection, holy, pleasing and spiritual worship is not a matter of killing and burning a sacrifice, rather it is the daily offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice. A living sacrifice is a person given totally (body, mind and spirit) to pleasing God, his or her whole person selflessly dedicated to honoring the Father.
The 17th century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, has challenged centuries of Christians through his book, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” His descriptions of transformational worship while performing such tasks as doing the dishes cut deeply into our hearts and cause us to question our narrow notions of what is pleasing to God as worship. “It is a great delusion to think our times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as strictly obliged to cleave to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in the season of prayer.” Washing the dishes does not seem terribly “spiritual” to our dualistic, compartmentalized minds. Brother Lawrence shares a unique and powerful insight for us through the simple words of this book.
Twenty-first century Christians have a well defined list of ways to offer our bodies as living sacrifices which are readily accepted by the Church. Most of them happen within the confines of church services.
· Playing a guitar, a piano, organ or other musical instrument.
· Providing a service as an usher, a minister, lighting candles, serving communion, or even collecting the offering.
· In some churches this even means dance, drama and other media.
Some of us have already joined Brother Lawrence in his view of seeing daily life as a spiritual act of worship and every activity as service to Christ.
· Walking to class, sensing Jesus’ presence along the way.
· Making dinner for my family is Christ-honoring service.
· Reading a book can be God-pleasing sacrifice.
· Driving to my job is a holy activity as I fellowship with my Lord.
We, who identify ourselves as coaches and athletes, have rich opportunities for holy, pleasing and spiritual worship as we train and compete. Our daily activities in sport are perfectly pleasing to our Lord as we dedicate ourselves to Him in loving service. Consider a brief list of ways to offer your body as a living sacrifice:
· Kicking a soccer ball
· Throwing a baseball
· Conducting a practice
· Hitting a volleyball
· Vaulting over a pommel horse
· Rehabbing an injury
· Catching a football
· Training with a team
· Shooting a basketball
· Swimming in a pool
· Lifting weights
· Running a race
· Coaching competitors
To be sure, God is properly worshiped through music, preaching and ritual. I believe He is equally honored by the people of sport as we compete, train and love our teammates. All of life is our spiritual act of worship, holy and acceptable to God as we offer our bodies as living sacrifices thereby practicing the presence of our Living Lord through our lives in sport.

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