July 9, 2012

Praising God…and Others

They say confession is good for the soul, so here goes.  I am a tennis junkie--and am not in recovery!  I have loved tennis since I was a little girl and lived one block from the public courts in Muskogee, OK.  I spent many happy hours shagging balls for those who knew how to play and was the recipient of many used balls for my own practice purposes.  I learned how to keep score reading The World Book and inherited my older brother's racket when he turned to other pursuits.  I loved the game then, and my enthusiasm has not waned--even though I do not actively play now.
The great tournaments, the Grand Slams, are of particular interest to me.  My able assistant notes them on my calendar as "minor liturgical holidays" so I can enjoy them, at least vicariously.  I have been known to vest my office doors for the season--purple and green for Wimbledon, red and blue for the U.S. Open (colors for the French and Australian Open are not in the palette of the Christian year, thankfully.)
I love the excellence consummate players display; their passion for the game is igniting for them and their fans.  Yesterday, at age 30, Roger Federer captured the Gentleman's SIngles title at Wimbledon, which is a rare occurrence.  He played masterfully, dancing on the court with the lightness of step and agility of ballet.  He deserved to win.
I was celebrating with him, at least until the post-match interview.  He acknowledged it was an amazing accomplishment, stated how well he believed he had played, and then thanked no one--not his wife, not his parents, not his coach--no one. I was stunned!  No one gets to the pinnacle of anything alone; all must stand on the shoulders of others who manage daily logistics so that the player may pursue the work of physical training and practice.
Psalm 48 begins with the praise of God: "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised . . . ", acknowledging the fundamental dependence humans have upon God.  A few verses later the psalmist turns to other inhabitants of Mount Zion, the king, mothers, sailors, and fellow citizens.  They, too, are an interdependent part of the city God is establishing.  All participate in the praise of God and the flourishing of life.  
Praise of others seems to flow out of the praise of God.  Realizing the great gift of life from God and those with whom we are privileged to share it suggests that praising God and others go together.  Sharing credit, being grateful, and acknowledging one's own insufficiency are marks of mature humanity.
The accompanying epistle text from Second Corinthians features Paul's frank admission: " . . . I will not boast, except of my weakness"  (12:5)  It is a stark contrast to the self-absorbed prattle of many in our days--athletes, celebrities, even some ministers.  The humility of the Apostle grows out of his praise of Christ.  He has learned that if he is too full of himself, there is no room for the power of Christ to dwell in him (v. 9b).
I will not stop watching tennis, but I will be watching for signs of humility and gratitude to others in addition to artistry on the court.  And I will seek to listen better to the scriptural teachers about linking praise of God and others.
Molly T. Marshall
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