2 Corinthians 9:1-5

Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints, for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you may not prove to have been empty in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—in this undertaking.

So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion. 2 Corinthians 9:1-5

Now we continue to follow Paul into the next chapter of his letter. Again he refers to the “brothers” who are working with him, it looks like they are his advance men.

That is particularly interesting to me because our congregation is in the midst of a capital finance campaign (which is why I’m writing so much about money), and capital campaigns usually begin with a quiet stage in which some people are invited into conversations about the goals of the campaign before the big kick off date. That stage makes sense because those people with the means to make large gifts might have some work to do ahead of time – sell real property, meet with their financial advisors, etc. But I think something deeper is going on.

As I do my work I find myself saying “Christianity is a team sport” so often that I sometimes think that I should create a macro on my computer so I can type the phrase with one key. The reason I say that so often is simple. Because Christianity really is a team sport. It is odd that we can forget that, but we do.

I remember back in the day when I used to be an athlete. Thinking back to any season of playing basketball reminds me of the life lessons of team sports. I never waited until the preseason to work on getting better. I did that almost every day. Once the team came together, from the first day, the coaches would remind us of our goals for the year. Knowing the goals helped make sense of all the little steps and drills and challenges it would take to get there.

The voices of the coaches mattered. But what really made a difference were the voices of my teammates. Communication was central to keeping everyone on the same page. We constantly encouraged each other, prodded each other to do our best. We consoled each other if we made a mistake or lost a game.

And when the season or the career ended – you hear ex-pro athletes say this all the time – what people really miss is the locker room, the comradery, the sense of “we’re all in this together” as we all tried to do our best every day.

When the first thing that Jesus did was to reach out to a few people to join him in his work I immediately remember “making the team” and that excitement and nervousness that came along with it. When I read about Paul sending the “brothers” out ahead, I can see them talking over a fire at night, deciding together what the best strategy will be for encouraging the Corinthians – and then following through and doing their best.

No one should be surprised to hear that teammates expect one another to produce! As wonderful as it might be to be ON a team, that isn’t the point. That is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The point of being ON a team is playing hard and smart FOR the team.

But being ON the team does participate in its own “end” because it takes a team to produce. No one can win by themselves. One season in Los Angeles has taught that to LeBron James. The win for the Christian faith is growing and healing and experiencing the spiritual power of community, of relationships with God and others, toward making the world a better, safer, more honest, more just, more humane world for all.

We need one another. And we need to encourage one another to do our best so that, together, we do our best. That’s why Christianity is a team sport.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, you have called us by name. You have marked us with the cross forever. We are yours and we belong to one another, for the sake of the world. Keep us eager to do our best. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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