Focus on Basics - Rev. Chris Shorow

January 26, 2017 - Rev. Chris Shorow

 help to coach my 9-year-old son, Clark’s, basketball team. As we gather for practice, the players start practicing their shooting. Most of the players only practice 3-point shots, and a few of them only shoot from half-court. I admit, it is exciting to hit a three-pointer, and even more thrilling to hit a half-court shot. Some NBA games are decided by a dramatic half-court shot. However, most of the time, these shots are not important parts of the game. No professional, not even Steph Curry, takes a half-court shot unless it is the end of the game with no time left on the clock. In my old-school basketball view, no 9-year-old should be taking three-pointers, hence my coaching motto, “Shoot a three, sit by me (meaning a spot next to me—on the bench!)”

Basketball games are won or lost on fundamentals—defense, ball-handling, lay-ups, open jumpers. Even a player who could hit most of his half-court shots would not make the NBA without great dribbling and defensive skills, which take years of practice.

We humans like big, dramatic, exciting plays. Most of us would prefer to be the hero hitting the last second shot. The player who works hard, rebounds, plays defense and doesn’t score much is more often than not, overlooked. The truth is that the hard-working player who has practiced every day is the one who is most responsible for the victories. Just ask Russell Westbrook. His amazing skills come after a lifetime of hard work and dedicated practice. Hard work is just that—hard. So, also, is dedicated practice. We would rather just be gifted and be able to perform at will.

I think it is like that for many of us in faith. We prefer the big dramatic plays to the hard work of our faith. We would rather be transformed with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and witness the miracle of Moses and Elijah. Or we would rather be present at the time of Pentecost, when the Spirit moved and all were able to hear in their own languages. We’d like to be present at the Resurrection, when God’s victory over death was sealed.

The truth is we live our faith more on a daily basis. The practice of prayer, of reading and studying scripture, of reaching out to others and of living in community with a church family are essential to our faith and our journey with Christ. Yes, we do have mountaintop experiences, but the day-to-day work of our faith is what makes those moments possible. In time we come to appreciate those quiet times of devotion and study to God.

It can be a challenge living in a community of faith. We are all human and prone to anger, misunderstanding and sin. But that is what our faith is about—loving our neighbor as our self. So lest we be tempted to go and live out our faith on a mountaintop all alone, we are reminded that Jesus told Peter and John to come down off the Mount of Transfiguration and get to work in the world.

So, off to practice where the kids can focus on the basics. Then, I think I will do a little reading of my Bible.

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