10,000 Steps

10,000 steps every day.  That’s what they that we should walk to maintain health and fitness.  10,000 steps every day.

It’s common now to see people wearing Fitbits, Apple watches and other devices on their wrists that count their steps, monitor heart rates and remind people to get up and move. Wellness is a good thing!  And when you take these devices out of their box, the “default” setting that they have as a goal for daily activity is typically, 10,000 steps.

10,000 steps every day.  It’s actually not that far, though if you spend much of your day behind a desk, it can be difficult to hit that 10,000 step mark.

Bill Hybels, in his book, Just Walk Across the Room[1], writes that 10,000 steps adds up to about 115,000 miles in a lifetime; or more than four times around this big, blue planet of ours.

Hybels goes on to ask the question, “If we knew that just a few of our steps would make a significant difference, an impact, in the life of someone who was in significant need, would it change the way you walk?”  It’s a great question.

The older I get, and the more experience I gain, the more I realize that I’ve only got a finite number of steps that I’m going to take in my life.  I want the steps I take to the places I go to mean something…to have significance…to make a difference.

Our scripture text for today is about making your steps count.  It is about getting up and moving…it is about significance and being a blessing.  It is the conclusion to the book of 2nd Corinthians…the closing out of a letter to those who live in the city of Corinth, a community of people which had become deeply divided.

When I first read this short section of scripture, I blew right past it.  It’s just an ending…a conclusion with no special importance, right?  But in reality, it is like an iceberg, with much below the surface.

You see, if you were to jump back and read the first 12 chapters of 2nd Corinthians, the division and conflict they experienced becomes apparent.  Paul had traveled to Corinth and had shared the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and had started the church there, teaching and training up local leaders.  His goal was to leave the community in good hands as he left to go start a church in a different town.

But after Paul left, others had come to Corinth who were teaching a different understanding of the love and grace of God, one which conflicted with Paul’s. And this was creating turmoil and division within the community members who were remaining loyal to Paul’s teachings, and this newer, upstart group.

Paul’s letters then, are an attempt to admonish the community and to steer them back towards Christ’s true teachings.  Paul is telling the Corinthians to “mend your ways.”  You should, he writes in verse 11, “agree with one another,” and “live in peace.”

Of course, we know this is not as simple as it sounds.

But remember that when Paul is saying “agree with each other,” he’s not just throwing that line out to the Corinthians like a frustrated parent.  He is pointing them towards something…something important.  Earlier in Paul’s writings, in 1st letter to the Corinthians, in an attempt to motivate them to get their act together, he said: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

In 1st Corinthians, and in today’s reading from 2nd Corinthians, Paul isn’t just telling them to get along for the sake of getting along…and it’s not just about identifying common ground.  Paul saying that they already know their common ground.  It is rooted in the teachings of Jesus.  That is the common thread that they share.  That is where they should go to center their perspectives and ultimately to resolve their conflict.

Let’s face it:  we too live in a deeply conflicted world.  Just watch the news!  The polarization is so deep now, that sometimes it’s hard to imagine that it can be resolved, much less healed.

Politically, ethnically, socially, economically…you name it.  We find so many ways to separate ourselves.  Now, differences aren’t a bad thing; a variety of perspectives and opinions bring a richness of diversity to our culture.  But when differences morph into conflict, and bridges cannot be built, well that’s a problem…a big problem.  And right now, in our nation, it feels like our commitment to digging in our heels outweighs our commitment to resolution, unity and progress.

I believe Paul’s words at the end of 2nd Corinthians could have been written to us: “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

And like for the Corinthians, God isn’t shaking his finger and just saying “you’d better agree with one another!”  He’s saying: people of faith, align yourself around the main thing…center yourselves on Christ and Christ’s commandment: “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul is reminding us to get up and walk across the room.  We must take steps; steps that matter.  We must take the initiative and approach people.  We must be willing to greet them…to shake their hand and to bring a blessing.

That’s what I think our text today from 2nd Corinthians is really about: getting up, walking over, and bringing a blessing.

Remember that blessings during Biblical times was a big deal.  We use the phrase “God bless you” all the time.  I sign off on most of my letters and e-mails with that phrase.  But coming out of Jewish tradition, when one gave a blessing to someone else, it was a precious thing.  They believed that you were giving something of yourself to someone else. You had been blessed by God, and you were literally giving some of that away to the person you were blessing…and that wasn’t taken likely.

Paul is telling the Corinthians that to heal their divide…to bring the people together, they need to get up, to walk to each other and to bless each other.  That is the common ground, the common mission that they share.

Paul is reminding the Corinthians that when they get up, when they go bless, even those with whom they disagree, God goes with them.  And that they have the grace and love of Jesus.  They are literally blessed, so that they may be a blessing.

Paul’s word here is to encourage us as people of faith to be willing to take the first step and to make our steps count.

When you are in conflict with someone, (and occasionally this does happen), Paul is reminding us that as people of faith, it is our responsibility to initiate reconciliation, to get up, to walk across the room, (or write the email…or make the call…or whatever…) and be a blessing. Listen.  Talk.  And when appropriate, ask forgiveness, and when asked, give forgiveness.

But there are other ways and other places we walk, and make our steps count, as well. This week Trinity launched the Husky Pantry, our new food program aimed at young people who are living in situations of homelessness.  This week, we only had one young person come and take advantage of it, which is about what we expected.  The school social worker told us that it will take time for  the young people to build trust.  And then, by word of mouth, the usage will increase.

But the one young person who came…came with his little brother.  And they picked up needed food.  And they were so thankful.  They said it was weeks since they’d had milk.  And they were glad to have some fresh fruit.  And the little brother said that it was really good food…he’d thought it might be icky food.  But it was really good.

And this happened because some people among us got up and took steps, literally and figuratively, to do this important thing.  And a blessing is given.  And lives will be changed.

And we take can steps when we encounter someone new…a new neighbor…a new classmate…a new co-worker…and we have the courage to walk across the room and get to know them, and to find out about their lives.  And we can ask them, “do you have a church yet?”  And if they don’t we can say something like “I go to Trinity, it’s a great community and if you ever want to join us, let me know.  You could come and sit with us.” Four out of five of our new members come to Trinity because they hear about it from someone else?  That’s what we do.  We take steps. We walk across the room.  We build relationships and when appropriate, we invite.  And a blessing is given.

Paul is inviting the Corinthians to be the ones to take that first step.  And he is inviting us to do the same.  He asks us to initiate:

  • The step towards reconciliation
  • The step towards serving those in need
  • The step towards invitation into community

People of faith are people who get up, and take steps.  We make as many of those 10,000 steps a day matter as we can.  We look for ways to serve and love in significant ways and in Jesus’ name. And we have faith, that by following Jesus in this way, we are joining with God’s mission to make God’s Kingdom a reality here on earth.

And we are blessed, to be a blessing.  Thanks be to God!

Amen.

[1] Hybels, Bill; Just Walk Across the Room, Zondervan Publishing, 2006; p. 19.

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