Did you know that for the first time ever, rock climbing is an Olympic sport? It is called Sport Climbing, and there are three different types of competition. Speed pits two climbers in a head-to-head race, climbing a 15m wall. Bouldering puts the climber on a 4.5m wall, climbing over fixed routes in a specified amount of time. Lead is where climbers try to go as high as possible on a 15m wall as fast as they can before the whistle blows. Who knew?
NPR aired a program yesterday where they interviewed a few pioneers of sport climbing. At the end of the show, the interviewer asked about finger strength. I was intrigued about this as well. I can’t open a pickle jar, so there is no way I would have the strength and dexterity to hang from a cliff by my fingers. It turns out that you can develop strong hands and fingers by exercising them in specific ways. They have even created “finger boards” to do this. I wonder if that means that piano players are a step ahead of the rest of us.
As with all Olympic sports, being an Olympic sport climber is a combination of God-given natural ability, strength training, perseverance, and determination.
In our passage from Ephesians today, Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus about their own training regimen. They are in the Growing-in-Christ Olympics. Paul encourages them to be disciplined in this sport and to be steady, consistent, and unified:
Ephesians 4 (The Message)
4 1-3 In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
4-6 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
Obviously in Paul’s mind, this is a team sport. He instructs them to walk….better yet, run!…on the course that God has laid out for them. Running on this track will take them closer to the God they love. We can imagine them in a relay race, where instead of handing off a baton, they hand off acts of love, compassion, and forgiveness.
7-13 But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,
He climbed the high mountain,
He captured the enemy and seized the plunder,
He handed it all out in gifts to the people.
Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts.
Yet even as a team, this calling to be the body of Christ together is fortified by the fact that each participant has a different strength and spiritual gift. All of these individual spiritual gifts combine to make us stronger in our Oneness…as long as each one does their part. It is like the Olympic Parade of Nations. Each country walks behind their flag, with everyone wearing the same uniform as they represent different sports. So, too, is the church called to stand behind one Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
Like synchronized swimmers, we are called to move rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in our response to God. Sometimes that means giving way. Sometimes that means compromising. Sometimes that means putting the needs of the many before your own.
That is the church.
14-16 No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are easy prey for predators. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.
In typical Paul fashion, he tells us to GROW UP. He wants us to know the whole truth and tell it IN LOVE.
I believe that our team is strengthened every time we search the scriptures and discern God’s will. I believe our disciplined training of worship, prayer, giving, meditation, self-examination, service, discernment, study…in other words, all of the spiritual disciplines…will draw us closer to God and to one another.
You are an Olympian, too. Where is God calling you to train harder?