Practicing Resurrection

Easter II 2016
St. Paul’s Within the Walls
April 3, 2016
“Practicing resurrection”

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Ok. I’m gonna go ahead and get this out of the way before I go any further.

I am a huge…huge…Steph Curry fan.

For those of you who may not watch basketball with the same fervor that I do, Stephen Curry is the current MVP of the NBA and last year led his team, the Golden State Warriors, to their first championship in 40 years.

He is not the physical specimen that usually has superstar level success in the league…he’s a strong, but slight, 6 foot 3 and makes his mark through quickness, outstanding court vision, and a shot that can only be described as glorious.

Last year he broke his own NBA record for most 3 pointers made in a single season, and this year, he’s absolutely demolished that number (he has 362 and his record last year was 286), and there are still 6 games left in the regular season.

To watch the man play is like watching Baryshnikov in his prime, a sight both beautiful, graceful, and professionally devastating if you happen to be playing against him.

If you have never seen him shoot before, do yourself a favor and go watch some clips of him on Youtube.

No one makes shooting and winning look easier, or more enjoyable.

Of course, I am biased in my appreciation of Steph, because he attended the same small liberal arts college that I did, putting Davidson’s name in common circulation, and my cousin-in-law even served as his hall counselor when he arrived on campus as a freshman.

When Steph was drafted in 2008, I, like many, thought he would have a notable NBA career, but couldn’t have dreamed he would one day become MVP of the league, and the face of the Association all around the world.

But he didn’t get there overnight.

In fact, Steph had to fight through naysayers all through his career, and recurring ankle injuries that, for a brief span, looked like they might force him out of the league altogether.

So what is the secret to Steph Curry’s success?

To begin, the man is gifted with other-worldly hand/eye coordination.

He has a natural gift for calculating the exact trajectory and timing for a shot to avoid being blocked by a taller defender and still go successfully into the hoop.

But at the NBA level, many people have a similar gift, albeit maybe not in the same portion that Steph has been given.

What separates Steph from other talented shooters is his tenacity when it comes to practice habits, and a dogged desire to improve all aspects of his game, from dribbling, to footwork, to court awareness.

Coaches from high school, college and the NBA have all remarked how Steph’s practice habits set him up for long term success.

He was the first in the gym in high school, working on making shots long before official practice was scheduled to begin.

When his ankle issues flared up, he worked with a trainer to entirely transform the way he used his hips and legs on the court, to reduce strain on his ankles and rely instead on core strength…a transformation that required an unbelievable amount of guts, hard work, and faith that the investment would pay off eventually.

His pregame warm up routine has become legendary, and kids and adults come out early to watch him doing complex dribbling drills with both hands, and watch him sink long distance three after long distance three.

We hardcore Curry fans know about this, and having watched his ascent and career with great enthusiasm, we can appreciate how much he is a product of both natural talent and an unparalleled work ethic.

The casual observer is wowed by the frequency with which he swishes half court shots when the game is on the line, or how he drives to the hoop and finishes layups with a flair not seen since Michael Jordan’s glory days.

And they love his determination to just find a way to win.

It also helps that he is available to fans, and the consummate team player…he relishes the successes of his teammates as his own, rather than settling for individual successes alone.

But underlying all that success is years of practice…hour upon hour spent honing a craft in the gym…pushing himself and holding himself to a set of standards that he decides…when the cameras aren’t rolling and the other players have all gone home for the evening.

One coach, seeking to motivate campers at one of his summer basketball camps, summed it up in these words:

“Success is not an accident. Success is actually a choice. And Stephen Curry is one of the best shooters on the planet today because he has made the CHOICE to create great habits. And my question to you is: Are the habits you have today on par with the dreams that you have tomorrow?”

Are the habits you have today on par with the dreams that you have for tomorrow?

It is a question that transcends the realm of NBA basketball and applies to what we are all doing here on the second Sunday of Easter in the year 2016.

It is a Sunday in which we hear Jesus preach peace to Thomas and all the other disciples who were locked in that room…stewing in their own fears and resigned to the self-made tombs in which they dwelled.

Jesus comes into that cramped space and he tells the disciples that those who have not yet seen, but who believe in what can and will be anyway…those are the blessed ones.

Believing in this way…and behaving as though the future that has been promised is here and now…that is a CHOICE.

In Steph Curry’s case, believing without seeing meant ignoring the naysayers who said he was too small or too weak to succeed in the NBA and investing in daily habits and practices that would one day yield results that only he could see.

For those of us who want to follow the risen Lord out of our own tombs and into Galilee and the fullness of God’s kingdom becoming real on earth as in heaven, it means practicing resurrection on a daily basis.

It means creating great habits that allow us to grow as disciples, and that will one day, after years of daily investments in prayer, in works of mercy, and in learning through trial and error how to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, will transform us into a people of faith rather than fearful individuals.

Are you cultivating habits of faith that are on par with the dreams you have for tomorrow?

If not, then my encouragement for you this Easter season is to start doing so.

If the scriptures we have throughout this season are any indication, none of us really get resurrection right away.

Sure there are some who have a natural aptitude for believing and living out the Gospel, but even those so gifted have to spend years honing their spiritual lives, like a fine blade, or a killer jumpshot, in order to witness the fullness of the kingdom with more frequency.

Steph Curry had coaches and mentors that helped him become the player he is today, even though only he could choose to put in the work and time each day.

The would be disciple requires a similar amount of support, from fellow disciples, from forbears in the faith, and from authors, teachers, priests and pastors, who can help guide the disciple toward habits and practices that are effective and appropriate.

But at the end of the day, practicing resurrection is a CHOICE.

It is a choice you have to make…to eschew all the voices preaching fear and fill your head instead with faith.

To trust that the world Jesus loved, died for, and rose to new life in order to redeem can be more holy, more loving, and more like the kingdom of God than it currently is.

One has to have great vision and faith in order to believe in that future and go to work actively pursuing it EACH DAY, and EACH MOMENT that we are given on this earth.

Being a disciple of the Risen Lord means being on that journey, and if Jesus’ words today are any indication, that journey…regardless of how long it may be, or of the setbacks and challenges that may arise, is a blessed one.

Practice resurrection this week dear people of God.

Cultivate and invest in the habits and practices that lead to the future we may have glimpsed this Easter, but cannot fully see yet.

God has given each of us the talent to do so.

All that remains is our choice to go forth boldly, and determinedly, in faith.

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