Recently I had occasion to jot a few lines to a young minister, a man of uncanny intellect, astonishing application ability and remarkable faith and in that discourse, with the Australian summer of cricket at that time less than three weeks away, I set-to with some cricket analogies.
Those brief comments were reflecting a greater truth that Jesus spoke about in his Sermon on the Mount which sadly is one of the great misunderstood applications in pastoral pulpit preaching in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. I'll come to this in a few moments.
At this initial stage of this article, let me offer these comments that apply to theologians, preachers and lay preachers alike, and it refers to that which we the preachers / Christian writer considers the heavy hand of expected thorough preparation for the moment of the listener's attention or the reader's reflection.
It is this, that over my 36 years in ministry I am repeatedly surprised where the Spirit of the Lord touches the heart – that whatever my circumstances might have been in my available preparation time – whether I was busy, having a trauma tantrum over something or someone, lost some focus due to the unexpected, concern over mission finances needing a top up …. whatever – in my experience, this is the moment in time that the Lord's finger engages in what loosely is termed, the supernatural stuff.
By this I mean, it is when God in His infinite wisdom engages in someone's life and events, that although our message, possibly not as prepared and as thorough, as we may have liked or thought it should have been, it is in that zone of weakness on our part, that God intervenes and touches someone's life through what we have said or written, albeit, far from our best work.
As I noted to this young minister, that I suspect that what he wrote, in spite of what he said as a work not up to what he considered his best effort, might just be the one to offer young Christians some hope to find a way out of the contours of what their parents / mentors have left them, and for non-Christian young people, confirmation of what they recognised all along.
This young man has a prophetic voice and as such, like each generation before, such a voice is frightening to many in the established arena.
Cricket analogies are far from being new in Christian teaching, and having served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years to 2000, does not in any way provide me a monopoly on such analogies. Nonetheless, these will stand the test of time for young prophets in our time and era.
Stand upright at the wicket –
Duck the bouncers –
When the ball is sweet give that sucker what it deserves –
Watch the cunning of the spinner's fingers -
Play a dead bat as necessary –
Be sure the other batsman doesn't run you out with a foolish call –
Enjoy your time at the crease !
Remember, we don't spend all our lives at the crease !! But our thoughts are often focused on the crease.
The sun and the rain
This is the key critical teaching that has been lost on some many in this generation of young preachers, this teaching from Jesus in his Sermon on Mount. The application is true to life. This application is true for theology. This application is true for preachers. This application is true for the congregation. Moreover, this application is true for those who are seeking a way forward.
Here is the application of Jesus words' – that if I'm a brick layer it's important I lay bricks well and do the maths for the string line and not quote bible verses to passers bye. Et al. When I fly with any airline, my hope is that the pilot got a high mark in flying at aeronautics school. Et al.
Jesus' teaching is that the sun (shines) rain (falls) on the righteous and unrighteous, the just and unjust alike!
It's a level playing field out there and to make an application that because:
â€¢ you have become a follower of the Lord these intellectual or training requirements are someone diminished or no longer necessary
â€¢ is so far from the Gospel and Jesus' teaching that it has done so much damage to the Gospel message and untold sacrilege to new Christians who have a weird sense that being a follower of Jesus is something akin to a magic pill.
At seminary four decades ago we were taken down the theological path to better get a grip on this fundamental teaching - by having this described as General Grace and Special Grace. God's general grace kind of expresses His love to all of mankind. God's special grace reflects Salvation.
As we enjoy the cricket this summer, applaud the skill and splendour of those who wield the willow and tweak the six stitches and marvel at God's general grace, and at the same time, wonder at the majesty of ourselves as a follower of Christ, described as an heir, in God's special grace.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at