Participating in the Highland Games as I did this weekend I was struck by the similarity between Highland Games Athletes and the Church.
(I know. It is not something I ever thought about either).
Similarity, you might ask? Surely I jest. There is little that is the same between the Church, the living body of Christ and a group of men and women gathered together for the purpose of throwing heavy objects long distances - if for nothing other reason the religion is not quite the first topic of choice at one of these gatherings.
But the thought hit me as I drove home that the similarities were there.
Like the Church, Heavy Athletics is a collection of people who otherwise have no relationship to each other. They are people who likely I would never meet in my life if I were not participating because they live completely different lives than myself. The differences are somewhat jarring initially, but after three hours of throwing everyone becomes supportive: after all, although we are competing we are really all there to do the same thing: our best.
The Church is like that too, although I suspect that after two thousand years we have become a little numb to it. We tend to expect people in Church that are like ourselves - in fact, we often go out of our way to find churches that are like that. There's nothing inherently wrong with that I suppose - after all, I have my own preferences of worship just like everyone else - but we cannot be so set that seeing someone who seems completely contrary to ourselves sets us off and makes us uncomfortable.
Since I have started throwing I have encountered a wonderful cast of characters: semi-professional athletes, law enforcement officers, heavy equipment operators, the retired, college athletes, computer programmers, administrators. The range of types and characters runs from the highly health minded to those who alternate Monsters and Bud Lights, from the heavily tattooed to those without them, from 250+ lbs of solid muscle to 140 lb lightweights.
All in kilts. All pulling for the same them. All (eventually) pulling for each other.
It does not matter where you are from, what you do, what you look like, what your skill level is. If you are there, you are there to compete. And you are accepted solely on the basis of that fact.
Like church there are rules (NASGA rules instead of the Bible), those that guide (referees instead of pastors), and share praise and encouragement (mostly shouting at each other to "Get it out here!"). True, we are not in worship - but we are all intensely focused on one thing while we are there. The world has been shut out for a period of time and only where we are and what we are doing is important.
I do not expect heavy athletics to become the norm at church services even as I do not expect the next Heavy Athletics event I participate in to break out into worship. What I do expect - of myself if no-one else - to step back for a moment and see my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ the way I see my fellow athletes: without bias to how they look or seem but focusing only on the common goal of what we are there to do, worship and glorify God - and how I can help them (and myself) to accomplish that as we all seek to do and be our best for God.
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