Sermon for September 8, 2019   Thirteenth after Pentecost          Christians Learning from Sport

And God said: “I am the potter and you are the clay. I will rework you until you are perfect in my sight”. From the get go God has created us as individuals and as communities to be the best we can be. God constantly nudges us toward our best selves.

I am going to look at this notion from two perspectives. One from the book “Defying Limits” by David Williams and second from sport. Quite literally, I read the book Defying Limits last week. David is one of Canada’s lesser-known astronauts but one that has more space-time than any other. He did not sing in space, as did Chris, he is not the Governor General nor is he a politician. He is a Doctor and spends his days now ensuring people are well. Let me offer a quote from his book. The context is his first space walk and his first look at the earth. “Time seemed to stand still and my mind went back to a movie I had seen in my first year of medical school called ‘How Can I not Be Among You?’ It celebrated the life of poet Ted Rosenthal. Tragically, Ted was diagnosed with leukemia in 1970 when he was in his thirties. In his poetry, Ted talked not about the fear of dying but about the fear of living an unfulfilled life. He spoke of the opportunity we all have to live a lifetime in a moment, to savor the moment, to love family, friends and strangers. Watching the movie was an epiphany for me at the time and has remained so. As soon as the end credits rolled, I promised myself I would live my life to the fullest.

This was one of those moments. I felt connected to humanity. I watched the earth rotate beneath me, a 4.5 billion year old planet on which the entire history of the human species, of all living things, had taken place. There were no boundaries visible between countries, simply the majestic beauty of this blue oasis in space. I was in awe and completely humbled. I felt like a speck of sand on an infinite beach. In that moment I realized our legacy is not what we leave. It is how we live. I was reminded yet again of the importance of living in the moment.”

Today we heard one of the most famous parts of the Book of Jeremiah, a man who lived in a time of crisis for God’s people. The days when God seemed close and present were distant and they focused on their own lives. The covenant God offered in forming the people was forgotten; poor people were oppressed and the safety net of care for all, especially widows, orphans and immigrants was fraying. God said, “…my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit.” [Jeremiah 2:11] On the horizon, great, threatening powers were gathering farther east but people believed their special relationship with God would always protect them, no matter what they did. This is the context for what we heard.

Every village in Judah had a potter; pottery was the Tupperware of that time. Food, water, goods were all kept in pots. A potter worked with a device that had two round stones. One was on the ground and the potter moved it by foot power; the other was higher and held clay the potter shaped. Perhaps you’ve done this or seen a potter at work. It’s a magical process. A lump of wet, dark clay is plopped on the wheel; the potter wets hands and then spins the wheel, gently caressing the clay from the bottom, urging it into a shape, lifting it, smoothing it, reaching inside to hollow the lump until, if all goes well, a beautiful vessel is formed from that lump.

Increasing so in our day we are forgetting or just finding irrelevant the message and teachings of Jesus. We have for the most part slipped into a practice of “worship is enough” and the rest of the week is mine. Last week I wondered what sport could teach Christians. Like Canadians and tennis fans I was delighted when Bianca Andreescu won the US open, the first ever for a Canadian. I also found it interesting that both Serena and Bianca gave a shout out to God. The lesson from any sport is a simple one: playing the game is akin to worship, the hours and hours of practice is the rest of the week. This moment is the gathering place to celebrate, be rejuvenated, be uplifted, to be cared for after a hard and sometimes long week of being Christian.

The Gospel teaching is a reminder that as we follow Jesus some or even all our behaviour and desires will need to be left behind. The essence of our ‘becoming new people clothed in Spirit’ will emerge and be better than we could possibly imagine.  The understanding I have of the core of Jesus teaching is one of love, hospitality and justice. That is what I believe St. Mark’s teaches and practices. Fear, anger, gossip and my way or your out have no place here.

Practicing love, hospitality and justice is what we do between the Sundays and in worship we all rejoice and are encourage by Jesus. And God said: “I am the potter and you are the clay. I will rework you until you are perfect in my sight”. From the get go God has created us as individuals and as communities to be the best we can be. God constantly nudges us toward our best selves.