Walking the Tightrope Sermon
Philippians 3:7-16 -Pressing toward the Goal
7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,[e] the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ[f] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;[g] but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved,[h] I do not consider that I have made it my own;[i] but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward[j] call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
(A)Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives (B)the prize? (C)Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who (D)competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable (E)wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 Therefore I (F)run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not (G)beating the air; 27 but I [a]discipline (H)my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (NASB)
Walking the Tightrope Sermon – 4/28/19 at Harbor Church
Last month a Newly-released video showed horror on the high wire as circus performers plummet to the ground during a rehearsal gone wrong. The accident in Sarasota, Fla., involved famous daredevil Nik Wallenda and his family, the Flying Wallendas, who are known for performing high-wire acts without safety nets. Video shows five high-wire performers losing their balance during practice and plummeting 25 feet to the ground below. One of the women was interviewed. Her jaw was wired shut, and through clenched teeth, you could just barely understand her say, “I broke every bone in my face.” incredibly, everyone survived this fall, no one died or was paralyzed, and they have all fully recovered.
What drives a person or a group of people to defy death or serious injury, to teeter on the brink of disaster, and then, when they loose their balance, to come crashing down without a safety net, injuring themselves and others with them? We could probably ask the same question of many of the folks who live on Block Island year round! In some ways each summer is a death-defying high wire balancing act, or a marathon race. Those of you who have been on the island long enough know the stresses and perils of the busy season. Almost everyone I’ve spoken with this winter seems to work 2 or 3 jobs in the summertime. Most work 7 day weeks, 12 to 16 hour days, filled with relentless activity, unceasing labor, and endless demands on time and energy. For most Block Islanders, this level of engagement goes last several months; for many who are busy through the shoulder seasons, this intensity covers more than half of our year. How do we maintain our balance during this precarious period, how do we preserve our equilibrium, not to mention or emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological health? How indeed!
There is no judgment in these observations. I understand the farmer who says, “You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines!” I myself have worked under similar seasonal pressures. I worked for four years as an Arborist, striving to scrape an annual living out of a 9 month work season. I spent 4 years on active duty aboard a Navy ship; our underway periods were filled with watch-standing day and night, the requirements of junior officer in administering a division of personnel and equipment, and the round-the-clock fleet exercises that we engaged in for training and readiness. Looking back even further, right after high school I began working a full-time 3rd shift job while taking college courses during the day. Nevertheless, being a newcomer to Block Island, I would not presume to understand the unique demands of our intense tourist economy, I’m merely saying that I have some measure of empathy for those who labor under the rigorous conditions here.
So again, I raise the honest question- how do we maintain our balance in light of our reality? I’m not even sure what balance looks like under these conditions, but I do know that if we lose it entirely, we risk real consequences, not unlike ones suffered by those who walk a tightrope so long that they eventually fall.
Before the summer season is fully upon us, I’d like to spend a few weeks considering a few questions with you and exploring some possible answers. What is Biblical balance? What is our theology of work? How do we define Biblical rest? And what can we do to practice these principles given the demands of our daily lives?
A number of years ago I read a great book called, How to Balance Competing Time Demands, by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks. (You can still find it online). Its insights still stick with me; The structure of the book uses an extended analogy based on an Olympic sports event. The apostle Paul uses a similar sports analogy in one of our readings for today. He likens his work of ministry to a race. He says,
Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives (B)the prize? (C ) So run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who (D)competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. 26 Therefore I (F)run in such a way, as not without aim27 but I ]discipline myself so that I will not be disqualified
The book I mentioned talks about the Olympic Pentathlon, and how it can be a metaphor for life.
The premise is that no Olympic athlete ever won a gold medal by being outstanding in 3 or 4 out of 5 of the events in this sport. They have to succeed in all of them. They need to excel in every area, in each and every event. On any given day, the athletes focus their time and energy on a specific area. And from week to week their training schedule can change. They concentrate on different things at different times and make adjustments as necessary. This process is intentional and deliberate, not reactive or ill-considered. We can replace a rigid, unchanging hierarchy of priorities, or inflexible schedule, in favor of a dynamic ebb and flow that matches the flow of our lives. In this way we can give each our commitments to relationships, family, vocations, church and community the attention they require in any given moment. Then, we periodically evaluate how we are doing in the different areas of our lives and make adjustments as necessary. The 'prize' we strive for reflects the entirety of our lives.
Balancing our Loads (with God’s help).
In our Call to Worship we read: “our souls find rest in the peace which Jesus gives” we begin to discover the path to this peace through the example of Jesus’ life:
- a) He was a busy guy. No one can argue with the amount of ministry Jesus accomplished. In his 3 years of public ministry he accomplished more than most of us will in a life-time. He was often surrounded by crowds, clamoring for his attention. When it got too hectic, he got on the ferry, went across to the other side. Problem was, there was another crowd waiting for him when he got off the boat – sound familiar?
- b) He got a ton done. He healed the sick, fought against evil rulers and lobbied against corrupt government, and taught graduate-level courses on theology and the Kingdom of God.
- c) He made time for people. He was never too busy for interpersonal connection. He took time to have dinner with the local tax collector. He spent time speaking at length one-on-one with the Samaritan woman at the well. He invited the children to be with him.
- d) He took time off. When things got too hectic, he got up before dawn, went to a quiet place on a mountain, and prayed. Maybe it was a place like the maze or Rodman’s Hollow.
- e) He finished his work. Perhaps most remarkable, He finished his work. In a life that was short even by the standards of the day, just before he died at around 33 years of age he declared: “It is finished”. And in his final prayer he said: “I have glorified you on earth by completing the work that you have given me to do.” What was his secret? He said in different times and ways “I only do what I see the Father doing” “Thy will, not mine, be done” He planned his schedule with the Father, based on spiritual priorities, not on the demands of those around him, and so he had time to accomplish all that was set before him. Jesus knew how to live a perfectly balanced life.
What Does Balance Bring us when we follow his example?
- a) Peace. In our Unison Prayer we said: “Speak your peace to our hearts” What does the peace of God bring?
- b) Stability. The Psalmist says, “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” Our steps are made firm by the LORD, when he establishes our way.
- c) Safety (24) even when we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the LORD holds us by the hand. Nothing can truly trip us up when God is showing us where to put our foot next.
- d) Freedom from Remorse and Regrets. One of the challenges of moving through life is as we age we look back more and more; we have more to reflect upon. The danger is the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s thinking. [or] I wish I’d done this, or I wish I hadn’t done that… We can be free from this type if thinking when we tell ourselves that we have earnest striven to do God’s will. Keeping to this path leaves no room for regret.
- e) Freedom to Celebrate Life. Every day is a new beginning, a fresh start, a potential opportunity. We not going to get it completely right – we are not going to have the perfect track record of Jesus. But wouldn’t it be nice to reflect back upon what we’ve done, and be able to resonate with the apostle Paul’s words, “14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward[j] call of God in Christ Jesus” I stuck by my principles, I made many good choices, I did a lot of things right because I asked God to direct my steps.
May each of us make an Olympic effort to achieve the balance and fullness that God desires for us. May we look to the father to order our lives each day. May we look to the example of Jesus to do all that is most important, to complete our work. And May we walk the tightrope of competing demands and priorities each day and still maintain our balance in all things.