“3 Kinds of Bones”

Hebrews 12:1-3

Dr. Robert J. Anderson

January 25, 2015


When Duffle Daugherty was a coach at Michigan State, he described the qualities he looked for in his athletes at the University. "Of course, we like them big," he said, "but we'll settle for players with 3 kinds of bones—a funny bone, a wishbone and a backbone. The funny bone is to enjoy a laugh, even at one's own expense. The wishbone is to think big, set one's goals high and to have dreams and ambitions. And the backbone—well, that's so a boy will have the gumption to get up and go to work and make all those dreams come true." —Roland F. Meissner, Jr., Nylic Review


Today as we gather on Sports Sunday, I thought we’d look at the 3 kinds of bones we should have as Christians.  Throughout scripture and the history of the people of God these three bones have been important building blocks in living out our faith.  Perhaps, if you stopped to think about them, you’d realize how important they are to you.  You may even find them helpful in other areas of your life.


We recognize that many of the important qualities of living a good and healthy life are accentuated in sports: team work, sacrifice, preparation or training, graciousness and humility in winning, and learning from failures.


God created us with a funny bone, and laughter was born in the bible.  God promised Abraham a son.  Abraham was 100 years old and fell on his face laughing, “What! Shall a son be born to a man who is 100 years old?”  Then three strangers showed up and repeated the promise.  This time Sarah laughed.  Their laughter was that of scorn and derision, but when the son was born, the laughter turned to joyous laughter!  Sarah said that God has made laughter for her, and everyone that hears her story will laugh with delight.  Abraham and Sarah named their son Isaac which is the Hebrew word for laughter.  The first reaction was that of scorn and derision born from having seen too many dreams defeated.  Finally, the laughter is that of pure joy because in Isaac their wildest dreams are realized.


Laughter has many moods and faces.  Every shade of emotion and feeling is expressed in laughter.  Some experiences are so tragic or foolish that we can only laugh at the frustration.


One time Diane left a curling iron on the vanity.  I wasn’t sure if it was hot or not, so I didn’t want to touch it and get burned.  So, I thought I would pick it up to smell that special smell of something hot.  But, I got it too close to my upper lip and burned it.  There was nothing to do for days but to laugh, which the family did quite often.


In the first church I served, there was a family that experienced 3 or 4 deaths in the matter of a couple of months.  The deaths included a college-aged son, an uncle, a parent, and I believe there was one more.  As we gathered in the funeral home when for what we would learn was the last time, there was nothing more we could say that hadn’t been said at the many times we’d been here before!  We just laughed.


Thank God for creating us with a funny bone!


When God created us, he included a wishbone!  Last week we looked at the call of Nathaniel in John’s gospel.  Philip went to Nathaniel and told him that he had found the Messiah.  At first Nathaniel was skeptical because, in his opinion, nothing good had ever come out of Nazareth.  But, then Jesus said of Nathaniel as he approached, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”  Nathaniel asked how Jesus knew him and Jesus said he’d seen him sitting under the tree when Philip first spoke to him.  Nathaniel confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus says, “You will see greater things.  You will see heaven open and angels descending and ascending on the Son of Man.”


The wishbone is to think big.  Noah built an ark.  Moses led a people to freedom.  Abraham left the safety and security of his homeland and family and struck off on the basis of God’s promise.  The disciples left their life’s vocation and followed Jesus into their life’s work.  Martin Luther King had a dream: a dream that this country will live up to its design to treat all people equal; a dream that the children of former slave owners and the children of former slaves will sit down at a table of brotherhood together;  dream that Mississippi will be transformed into an oasis of justice and freedom; a dream that everyone will be judged on the basis of their character and not their color.


People in our congregation have stared cancer in the face and chose to think big and won the battle.  Some may have thought that United wouldn’t survive following the merger of Highlands and Southminster, but 10 years later faith grows, service flows, and people’s lives are changed.


The wishbone is to dream big dreams!


Then God added a backbone to give us the gumption to get up and go to work and make those dreams come true.  Levi Coffin is an unsung hero of the American anti-slavery movement.  In the 1820’s Coffin moved to Newport, Indiana and opened a shop.  His home soon became a central point on the famous Underground Railroad, a pathway from slavery in the USA’s South to freedom in Canada.  People like Coffin would take enormous personal risk to help fleeing slaves on their journey.  Coffin provided refuge for up to 17 refugee slaves at a time at his house, and so active was he that three major routes on the Underground Railroad converged at his place which became known as Grand Central Terminal.  Because of his activities Coffin received frequent death threats and warnings that his shop and home would be burned. Yet he was undeterred.  Like many of the whites involved in the Underground Railroad he was driven by his Christian convictions.  Coffin was a Quaker and explaining his commitment said “The bible, in bidding us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, said nothing about colour.”  Source: reported in Readers Digest July 2001  Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. (Ambrose Redmoon)


We exercise backbone when we don’t laugh at jokes that demean people.  We show our backbone when we object when all people in a race or ethnic background are depreciated.  We stand up and are counted in the larger issues when we don’t let a lie pass for the truth.  We stand tall when we welcome sisters and brothers of color, background, nationality, and ethnicity truly as sisters and brothers in the house of God and at the table of grace.  We stand tall in the love of Christ when we stoop to help another up regardless of what others think or say.


The qualities that Duffle Daugherty looked for in his players are what are to characterize the people of God.  We are to have 3 bones: a funny bone,  a wishbone, and a backbone.


Take your funny bone, wishbone, and backbone and clothe them in the full armor of God.  Fasten the belt of truth around your waist.  Put on the breastplate of righteousness.  Put on comfortable shoes that will make you ready to spread the gospel of peace.  Pick up your shield of faith, put on your helmet of salvation, and grab the sword of the Spirit.


Now you are ready as part of the people of God and are able to do the work of God where he called you!  You’ve got the bones for it.  Funny bone, wishbone, and backbone.