Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (Galatians 5:1; 6:1-5) transports me to the downtown Y where I am now in a good workout routine, getting some cardio on the Crosstrainer and doing reps on a few of the weight machines several times a week. My goal is pretty simple – to feel better, to have more energy, and to raise my HDL numbers. But I notice that others in the workout room have different goals. While we wimpier types use the weight machines, the serious bodybuilding folks are over on the other side of the room, pumping some serious free weights. I heard one of the trainers there explaining the overload principle to a novice ironman wannabe. It’s pretty simple; you build muscle strength by getting the body to adapt to increased demands and stresses. I’ve noticed at the Y that bodybuilders work together in increasing these demands and stresses, especially on the bench press. If someone gets caught with too much weight, more than they can bear, their partner will spot them and help lift the burden. The spotters will each get their turn on the bench to see how much they can press. So Paul tells the Galatians if a brother gets caught in a heavy situation, he should have some spotters in the fellowship to help restore him, to help lift the burden. Carry each others’ burdens. A few verses later Paul says everyone has to take their turn on the bench: Each should carry his own load.
There’s something about exercising in community. Everyone has to do the work, to carry their own load, but sharing the experience somehow eases the pain that comes with gaining strength. Zumba is the workout rage now – our sanctuary is filled every Tuesday and Thursday evening, mostly women, twisting and shouting and shaking and getting the blood pumping to high octane music at full blast volume. I’m glad our church offers this; it reminds me of the good old days of jazzercise when I had a brainstorm that the church could capitalize on the trend and create something similar, a Jesus-ercise program, building “firm believers” (cue the rim shot), strengthening the heart through some hard-driving Christian music.
In the sacred spa of our spiritual life, the overload principle I observe at the Y sure applies to our desire to grow stronger in faith. We adapt to increasing demands and stresses through a deeper prayer life, a deeper relationship with Jesus, and a deeper understanding of the Word. And we don’t exercise our faith alone; it works best in partnership with fellow believers. If someone gets caught with more weight than they can bear, the spotters are there to help lift the burden. Even so, each of us still has our own load to carry, our own cross to bear. And Jesus is the ultimate trainer, the consummate “body-builder” who builds up the Body of believers through encouraging our daily exercise of faith. His are the everlasting arms we can lean on when need extra support in life. I imagine him leading a sanctuary full of folks twisting and shouting and shaking and getting the blood pumping to some loud Zumba music, with different words – would you be free from the burden of sin? There’s power in the blood, there’s power in the blood. . . Five, six, seven, eight. . .
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Burdens.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.