Summary: Paul teaches us that we are all in a race..there are no spectators.
The Race - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
From time to time as I prepare for our Sunday Worship sermon time, God tells me that I need to reveal little secrets about myself.
The problems is that sometimes I am afraid that since we are still getting to know each other it might give some of you an excuse to make a less than glowing review of my character.
Today is one of those days. It is not that what I am going to share is a real secret. If you asked me about it I would tell you, but, I don’t really want to reveal anything that might go against an assumption that you might make about a normal, typical man.
Ok, here you go, I don’t care anything about sports.
I don’t care who wins the Georgia – Georgia Tech football game. I don’t have a clue about professional golf standings. Basketball, Baseball, Hockey are mysteries.
Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased when most people are happy at the outcome of some game or sport. I celebrate when the United States wins medals in the Olympics and am impressed with the drive and abilities of so many people.
But, over all, I am not really interested in being a spectator.
I think it may be because I am not really and never have been talented toward competitive things. As a teen I was clumsy and caused damage to myself and others when competing.
But, to take it a step further, I don’t understand the ability of some people to get excited about racing.
Watching professionals race in loops, over and over again sometimes for hours. The end comes and the finishing line is crossed and one or two people get a prize and everyone heads home in bumper to bumper traffic.
SLIDE – Mediterranean
Our scripture this morning includes the Apostle Paul’s opinion of racing. He is writing to the church in Corinth. A wealthy town with a wide range of religious experiences available. Their wealth came from where they are located.
Slide - Map
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Slide – Poseidon
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is said to be written with the background of the Isthmian games which happened every two years and were 1 of 4 major sporting contest in the Greek and now Roman world of Paul’s day. Each event dedicated to the main Pagan God for the city. Any hints as to why Poseidon would be Corinth’s main deity?
The goal of athletes would be to win in each main event over the period of 4 years
This event was held every two years ten miles outside the city of Corinth. From my reading, the event was a big deal. People came from all around the Mediterranean to watch.
It was the sporting event that every other year - drew the empire’s best talent.
SLIDE – Athletes
Athletes would compete in foot races, broad jumping, discus throwing, wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, and equestrian contests. At some point in its history it included music and poetry competition and in many of the events women were allowed to participate in some way.
Slide - Crown
Participants would compete fiercely, each striving for the Isthmian crown - a wreath of wild celery. We would call it parsley. Or in some time frames some kind of pine or fir branch crown.
There was no big money prize, only a simple crown of wild celery and perhaps a little fame that might last for a few years. On some occasions statues were commissioned of the most popular winners.
It is important to know that there was only one winner recognized in each event. There was no recognition for 2nd place, it was all or nothing.
Generally speaking there were great athletes and sports fanatics over 2000 years ago. People traveled hundreds of miles and sat in packed stadiums to watch the very best compete for personal Glory. The competitors were not directly representing their home town or area, the games were an individual competition. No teams
Paul reminds his readers about the runners, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” “Run in such a way as to get the prize. ”