By Paul Koch –
I played rugby for many years and I loved every moment of it. I loved the brotherhood of the men I played alongside of, I loved the strategy of the game, and I loved the bone rattling hard hits. I used to preach at a mission church in Brunswick Georgia on Saturday evenings after matches and those wonderful saints grew accustomed to seeing me show up recently bloodied and bruised and limping a little. Sure rugby gave me more than my share of stitches and trips to the doctor but it also gave me something much more – it gave me focus.
I think I am someone who has always needed help focusing. When people asked me why I played rugby one of the reasons I would often give (besides my subtle joy of violence) is that when I played rugby the volume in life seemed to get turned down. What I meant by that is I was more able to focus, to concentrate on the task at hand. And why it may have begun on the rugby pitch it carried out into my other vocations as well.
But there is a consequence to turning down the volume, though it may help to focus it doesn’t give much time for life’s distractions (which I suppose is the point) yet as it turns out a lot of life is distraction. Which means a lot of what fills our days has the volume turned down to the point that it doesn’t seem necessary. This means we can become disengaged with cares and concerns that fall out of our field of focus. I actually think this can be detrimental to us, it might very well stifle our growth; limit our exposure and contemplation of new and challenging things. Perhaps we need to be careful how low we adjust the volume in life.
On the other hand when it comes to the church, when it comes to the individual congregation and faithful pastor, perhaps we need to turn down that volume even more.
The more the focus of the church is set on proclamation, on the actual handing over of the gifts of God, then the more all the other bullshit that consumes our attention begins to seem unnecessary. When we turn the volume down on everything but the preaching craft we suddenly find it easier to delete e-mails from the Synod or district without even opening them (because history tells us they are not going to deal with proclamation). In fact pastors can get other work done right in the midst of a pastor’s conference without even feeling guilty about it. For if we can’t really hear whatever it is they are talking about then we can focus on what is important.
How would our conversations in the church change if we turned down the volume on those things that are not in service to proclamation? How would our conversations of our beloved confessions change? What about church discipline issues or closed communion rails? When we turn the volume down and proclamation is our focus even our discussions of mission and evangelism sound totally different.
It’s time to turn down the volume; it’s time to allow those things that distract us from the giving of God’s gifts to fall on deaf ears. I doubt we need blood and bruises to do this, but if we do – I still have my old rugby boots in the closet.