Team Effort

                  Team Effort 
 
1 Corinthians 16:14-22 

It's championship season in the sports world, as professional tennis, hockey, basketball, golf, and soccer players pursue the pinnacle of their sport during the summer. And for us amateurs, regional volleyball and basketball tournaments give us a chance to hone and exhibit our skill as we take a break from school or work. With the World Cup nearing a finish, and many of our thoughts drifting to championships of our own, we'll take a sports-centric look at this week's passage. 

Having written 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, St. Paul is one of the most significant figures of the Bible. But in this passage, as Paul bids farewell at the end of his first epistle to the people of Corinth, we see that he wasn't alone. Paul acknowledges some unsung heroes - his teammates Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus - who served as letter carriers. Paul's support staff wasn't prominent, but they were instrumental in Paul's effort to spread God's Word through letters. This passage shows that we should allow ourselves to be inspired by each other's faith, and to find joy and gladness in the presence and efforts of our brethren. Just as good teammates should be complements for one another, we see that Paul's support staff provided what was lacking on the part of the Corinthians, and that "they refreshed my [Paul's] spirit and yours [the Corinthians]" (v. 17-18). The passage includes the simplest and most necessary bit of advice for any teammate "Let all that you do be done with love" (v. 14), which is a message that reverberates in each of this week's Bible readings. 

This week's evening Gospel reading (Mt. 14:14-23) echoes the theme of team work, through St. Matthew’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. We know our teammates may not always be perfect - like the disciples when they suggested "Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food" (Mt 14:15). But Jesus' response was one borne of love, as he utilized his supporters to serve. By doing so, Jesus elevated his teammates' games, and made them better people by giving them a game plan that allowed them to be more involved. 

Jesus' team of disciples is something we all studied in Sunday School, so let's do what athletes do during acceptance speeches and bring some love and attention to the fans. At Sunday's morning prayer Gospel reading (Lk. 10:17-24) and Holy Communion Gospel reading (Lk. 10:1-6) we'll witness the fervent support brought by "The Seventy" - seventy people out of the multitude who were appointed and sent out by the Lord to act as missionaries and evangelists. They left with passion and conviction, and "returned with joy, saying 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name'," (Lk. 10:17). Jesus redirects their boundless joy and pride in their work in Lk. 10:20 "do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven." By seeking input from unlikely places, Jesus was able to give his enthusiastic supporters an unfathomable level of joy. Christ actions should remind us to reach out beyond our comfort zones to let people be a part of the work that we try to accomplish, so that they may share in the joy of success. 

Doing our part is what Sunday's general epistle (Acts 6:1-7) will be about. Just like our sports clubs have specific positions, the Lord's team has a variety of appointments roles to be filled. As the Church was growing exponentially, the Apostles realized they would need to delegate responsibilities to new leaders within the growing brotherhood, so that they themselves could continue to "give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word," (Acts 6:4). Trying to accomplish our tasks all on our own - whether in the sports realm, professional world, or in our spiritual walk - is something that will bring us stress and struggles that can surely crush us as individuals. New problems arise daily in our lives, just like for the burgeoning Church in Acts Ch. 6. And just like a coach replaces an injured player, we must be willing to delegate and prepare people in our lives to fill the support positions that we need in order to survive our trials. 

It takes a great deal of effort to be a great teammate in sports as well as in life. But the key to all of this effort is found back at the very first verse of this week's Pauline Epistle - "Let all that you do be done with love" (1 Cor 16:14). Through Him, may we find the strength, courage, and love to handle all of life's challenges together. Let us acknowledge everyone who has been a part of our team in life so far, and may God make us worthy to be the perfect teammates for all of the people in our families, Churches, and communities.