Sunday, February 12, 2017

The value of the score-board

Sermon for Septuagesima

“It’s not the winning, George, it’s the taking part.”

You’ve probably heard that phrase before used when George is in floods of tears because he hasn’t got a medal for being the fastest in running across the playground. The medal is clearly something that matters to George, and not winning it is a cause for great sorrow and anguish.

But why do we get a medal for coming first?

Why not a medal for coming fourth or ninth?


You may say that we give medals to inspire people to do better, but surely coming fourth would involve some very interesting skills other than just being the fastest.

For many issues, the first past the post is an obvious method of making choices. The fastest runner will be the one who can take the message to an ally while the town is in siege. The best javelin thrower will be the one to use against the enemy walls. The best boxer will be the one to beat the opposing champion for the hope of the city.

These are old Greek ideas of several thousand years ago. Do they have much meaning now?

If these are merely things we value in war or combat, shouldn’t we be evolving out of such a competitive or war-like way of thinking?


The people we describe as winners todayhave something about them that we value. We see in them something in our heroes and heroines that we would like for ourselves, and that’s no bad thing. It isn’t envy when we don’t want to take that away from those whom we admire but seek to emulate their achievement. Achievement only really works if we value what we seek to achieve. Yet, if we covet the prize itself, and seek to take that prize away from another, that truly is envy.

Can we say that the whole sports industry is based around envy?

Probably not. However, where our treasure it, there are hearts are also. The Lord tells us as much, and what He is speaking about is worship. Worship is literally worth-ship; what we worship determines our own value system. Once we have a thing that tops the score board in our own thinking, something that we desire most, something that we’d do anything to achieve, then everything else ranks behind it.

The Christian knows precisely what the score board should look like.


We worship God by putting Him first, and this sets up our whole system of values. We should value what He values; we should hate what He hates; love what He loves. It doesn’t matter when in our lives we acquire this system of values; the prize, the reward, the joy is always the same – nothing less than God Himself.

That should terrify us.

Once we look at where we are, we realise just how far short we are of worshipping God in spirit and in truth. We need that knowledge, no matter how painful it is, but we run our race with God alongside us, rooting for us, cheering us on, and giving us the grace to succeed.

 As we enter Great Lent, the first three weeks of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima are there to get us to examine ourselves, the condition of ourselves to run the race to God. Then, when we have examined ourselves, we shrive ourselves on Shrove Tuesday by confessing to God, sacramentally if we wish, what we need to put right. Then we can spend Lent preparing ourselves properly to worship the Risen Lord anew on that Glorious Paschal Sunday morning.


Now is the time to think about how much we really do worship God, and seek the prize that is set before us.

How seriously are we prepared to change our score board?

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