Summary: As we look at what it means to be a Christian the first fundamental issue we will look at is selflessness.
July 11, 2010 Luke 9:23-27
One of the purposes of a sabbatical is to get some space from the day-to-day demands, to “step back” and gain some different perspectives, and to return with something new to offer. First I want to say “thank you” for the one month sabbatical I have just completed, and I want to report that I did get some space from the day-to-day demands, I did “step back”, and I hope I still have something to offer. As many of you know, I have been studying at the University of Alberta, and this month was an intensive period in that particular journey. For those interested we summarized our work in a large “poster” format which I’ll display somewhere, and you’ll get a glimpse at the research project I am going to be doing this fall.
Part of my “stepping back” included some reading and reflecting further on some of the broad themes of my life. Where is God working among us? Where should I be focussing my energies, time, gifts, to serve Him? Where is He calling us as a church; and are we as a church actually being what God needs and wants us to be as a church? And, assuming some things need to change in response to the answers to those questions, am I (and are we) willing to change?
Those are unsettling questions. At least they are to me. They drive me to prayer, which is exactly where I started the first morning I was back from sabbatical. They drive me to Scripture, which is where I went next. They drive me to reflection, to listening, and to reading, which is what I’ve continued to do. And that all brought me to a decision about where to concentrate our sermon energies over the summer months. Let me introduce that this way:
How many times do you think Wayne Gretzy shot a hockey puck? Michael Jordan a basketball? Bastian Schweinsteiger a soccer ball? Now I’m not an athlete, but I do know this: in sports, it all comes down to the fundamentals. That is what practices, drills, hours and hours and hours of work are all about: mastering the fundamentals. It is a basic principle: the things we spend the most time on are the things we are most familiar with, and are the things that we end up being able to make a deep part of us, so that these things come easily to us because they are natural to us. They flow freely out of us.
The same is also true of our spirits. The fundamentals need concentration, need attention, need rehearsal, so that we can live out of them naturally and with ease. So that, in whatever experiences we find ourselves, we can respond out of a Christlikeness that has been nurtured and developed and attended to.
Now, when I’m talking about Christian “fundamentals” I am not particularly interested in the basic academic and intellectual aspects of our faith. I don’t generally think of our congregation as one full of spiritual babies, I don’t generally try or intend to spoon-feed you mashed up applesauce on a baby spoon, and I don’t generally feel like my job is to try to tone things down and thus never challenge or push or ruffle feathers. I read Scripture like Hebrews 5, “ 11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”, and I think that together we can “eat solid food”. The “fundamentals” I have in mind are not the “basic things about God’s word” that this passage describes, things like Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth as a human, died on the cross and then rose again, and now offers to save us from having to continue to live as hopeless trapped sinners. We know these facts in our heads; there are no radically new ways of looking at these things that are going to make us all go “wow! I never saw it like that!! Steve really is smarter now after that sabbatical…”. So my point in getting back to the fundamentals of our faith is not to go over the simple theological truths. What, then, is it?