I have this workout shirt with the Bible passage Romans 11:36 on it. I like the font, the colors and the size of the letters. I like the way it fits and I am reminded when I look at it why, how and for whom I am exercising. Romans 11:36 says “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen”. Yesterday a member surprised me by knowing exactly where the passage on my shirt was from. It surprised me and left me feeling sheepish as I know very little about the context of the passage I was wearing.
So I read Romans chapter 11 and was again, surprised. But this time by God. He is a God of details and presence. Of timeless truths that transcend time or audiences. Romans was obviously written to the people of Rome, but specifically to the Christians living in Rome (Jew and Gentile believer) during approximately AD 57. It was written by the apostle Paul on his 3rd missionary journey in (most scholars believe) the city of Corinth. That was a long time ago to a people and time so foreign yet, what I read applied to situations going on right here at the Y in Oconomowoc, WI. Albeit, the application might be a stretch for some people, but it was clear to me as I was preparing this blog, this was the analogy I should use.
As much as I despise rumors and gossip, I need to share that I’ve heard it rumored lately new members or new participants to a few group exercise classes are being received rather rudely in some of our classes. It’s been said members who regularly attend these classes are not allowing those who aren’t familiar with the class to set up next to them. Instead of being helpful, the regular member criticizes the new class participant about how she has set up her space. I did not witness any of these situations and cannot prove them true, however, it is unnerving to me there is even a rumor about such occurrences. There is much talk about the negative impression those who regularly take class have with those who may be newer or less of a regular member.
Shame on us.
The YMCA’s mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. That last part is key – FOR ALL. Not just for the regulars, not just for those who fit the “exerciser mold” we have created, not just for those we know, or those who we see every day. But for all! I know that not every exercise class is suitable for every person, but every person has the right to make that decision for themselves – to walk into a new class and feel welcomed and invited instead of as an inconvenience or even a potential threat to your exercise experience.
That brings me to Romans chapter 11, starting at verse 11. I know this may be a stretch of an analogy to many of you – but to me it makes perfect sense. The title of this section of Scripture starting at verse 11 is “Ingrafted Branches”. The Jews in this section of scripture were upset about Gentiles also claiming God as their God and they his people. The Jews were the chosen people and were unrelenting in the acceptance of the Gentiles (and Jesus as the Messiah). The Gentiles were referred to as the “Ingrafted Branches” by Paul. Verse 17 says “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to the other branches. If you do, consider this: You do no support the root, but the root supports you.”
The new members wanting to experience the class can be considered the “wild olive shoot”. They are wanting to receive the benefits of group exercise class – the “nourishing sap”. Those who have been regularly attending class should not see these new participants as inconveniences or threats, but instead celebrate the fact they are trying something new because in the end, if the end result is another regular class member, we all win! The Y community gets stronger, more branches grow, more connections are made and more people get healthy. The more people who can benefit from the classes, the more successful our entire group exercise program is, the more classes we add to the schedule and the stronger our community becomes.
The best part about all this then, about becoming a stronger, more sustainable, connected exercise community, is verse 36 (what is on my shirt): He gets the glory. For it is from Him, through Him and for Him we get to do ALL THINGS.
Even attend exercise class.
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