Arguably the second most important sporting event of 2022 started on Monday
I am, of course, talking about Wimbledon. The number 1 slot, of course, goes to le Tour de France 😊
Wise words from Henman
My point here is not to start an argument about what is the greatest sporting event; indeed, you may have no interest in either of these sporting events. Rather, the start of Wimbledon and the yearly debate as to whether the small rise in elevation within the grounds is called Henman Hill or Murray Mound made me think of something quite profound I heard Tim Henman of Henman Hill fame say on the radio a number of years ago.
The interviewer asked him about the hours of practice top tennis players put in each day. The interviewer said a phrase that I, and I suspect you, have heard often, “of course, practice makes perfect.” Henman’s response has stayed with me. He answered, “practice does not so much make perfect; rather, it makes permanent.” In other words, the hours of practice strengthened muscles, muscle memory, and neural pathways, so that under moments of stress or fatigue in a game, a player can seemingly instinctively pull off a remarkable shot. What we see as instinctive or talent has thousands of hours of practice as its bedrock.
What’s this got to do with God’s kingdom?
Hopefully, we would all agree that as disciples of Jesus, we desire to grow in Christlike character. However, growing in Christlike character is not something that just magically happens; there is, like with a great sports person, unseen hours of “practice” which lead to growth in godliness. Yet, growth in Christlikeness is rarely a smooth up-ward journey and we all at times …many times …act in a way that shows we are all still works-in-progress. We need to keep “practising” to work with the Spirit in making permanent the Christlike character that God is forming in us.
Thankfully, as I’ve just noted, we are not on our own when it comes to growing in Christlike character. God, by his Holy Spirit, works in us to form in us the image of his own Son (Romans 8:29). Yet, just as a sportswoman or sportsman needs to submit to the training regime of their coach, so we need to submit to and be obedient to the “training regime” of the Spirit.
Frequently, theologians and pastors speak of spiritual or formative practices, which is just another way to speak of the “training regime” of the Spirit. There are obvious formative spiritual practices: bible reading, prayer, worship, and fasting. But what about eating and drinking?
Eating & Drinking
This Sunday, we are going to think about how God’s topsy turvy kingdom transforms the everyday mundane activity of eating and drinking into a powerful formative spiritual practice. If this seems a far-fetched idea, then here are some things to mull over:
- How often in the gospels do we find Jesus eating and drinking or talking about eating and drinking? If you add to this the food miracles Jesus does, then I’d argue that we start to see food and drink as being important in the ministry of Jesus.
- New Testament scholar Robert Karris famously wrote, “Jesus was killed because of the way he ate.”(1) In particular, Jesus had problems because of whom he ate with. How should this inform any Christian practice of hospitality?
- Central to the life of the Church through the ages is our celebration of the Lord’s Supper / Communion. What’s the relationship between this eating and drinking at The Lord’s Table and eating and drinking at any other table?
In preparing for Sunday, I’m mulling over two bible passages:
Matthew 5:46 – 47 and Matthew 9:9 – 13
See you all on Sunday.
(1) Robert Karris, Eating your way through Luke’s Gospel, p. 97. The fuller quote is: “In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus got himself killed because of who he eat with.”