But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. – James 1:22
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Teddy Roosevelt (An excerpt from "Citizenship In A Republic" delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910)
I’ve had this text quoted to me countless times by various wrestling coaches throughout my athletic career. When I was younger it honestly didn’t make any sense to me. Of course one wanted to be in the arena. Where else would we want to be? That, of course, was what I said 20 years ago. As I have aged, I’ve become acutely aware of the temptation to no longer put myself into the arena. All that dust, sweat, and blood seems more the thing of youth. I know how I will feel the next morning after a day in the arena!
We have just come through Easter and thank God we have a God who was not afraid of the arena. A God who was willing to face the dust, sweat, and blood. A God who was fully Himself right up onto the cross. A God who being Himself, the incarnation of God’s love of humanity, was resurrected from the grave. Death, sin, brokenness are utterly defeated. Our Christ lived a life of action that transformed the world. It has been said that power is the ability to act. This is a power God has entrusted the church with as the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is acting in the world. God’s power is continually being made manifest amongst us in our action.
Unfortunately, so often we Christians see our faith as a passive one. We receive God’s unmerited grace. We receive forgiveness because of Christ’s death and resurrection. In baptism and communion, it is God who acts and we simply receive. We are nurtured by our congregation. So many of us can point to mentors and teachers who have helped us live into and understand our faith. All different ways of receiving rather than acting.
Easter shows us a different way. We are called to action by the resurrection. We are called to be that man or woman in the arena. We are to strive for the Kingdom of God erring on the way. Coming up short again and again but resilient in our following Christ’s call in our lives. We are called to be people of action. People who are not simply content to sit in worship and be fed. We are called to be people who live our faith so powerfully those around us can not help but ask, “What is with you? You are so different. Why?” To which we answer with the Gospel! We are a congregation with collective centuries experiencing God’s love. It is time to follow Christ and put this faith to action. Mentor, serve, lead, teach. Will you fail? Absolutely. Is that reason to shrink out of the arena of our lives? Absolutely not. Christ transformed the world with his joyful Easter action. We are called to do the same.
In Christ’s Service,