A Theology of Bowling

As silly as it sounds, bowling can illustrate biblical truths. Here are a few theological reflections on a recent outing with the Susquehanna Charge youth:

Do not rely on previous victories.

I easily broke triple digits the last time I bowled, so I felt pretty confident that I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of a group of teenagers. My confidence, which was based on past success, was misplaced. I broke the 100 mark only once – thanks to a youth who graciously rolled a strike for me.

Douglas Rosa's 'Elijah' in The Living Story of the Old Testament.

‘Elijah’ in Douglas Rosa’s Living Story of the Old Testament

In Joshua 7, Israel’s defeat at the hands of Ai stands in striking contrast to their military victories of the previous six chapters. The thrill of victory over larger nations like Jericho was quickly replaced with the agony of defeat. One moment we can be like Elijah standing victoriously on Mount Carmel and the next hiding in a cave in deep despair (1 Kings 19:10).

Success requires persistent discipline.

Anyone looking at the scorecard could easily distinguish between those with a disciplined routine of bowling, and those who bowl annually. Who invited those league bowlers anyways?

With the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2, thousands of people believed in Christ, and the new Church took on a disciplined way of life. The believers devoted themselves to daily study, prayer, fellowship and service. As a result, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).”

Do not make rash vows.

I promised to buy ice cream for anyone who could outscore me. I do the same at miniature golf outings, and I sometimes end up buying an ice cream or two. I quickly lost count of how many times I was out bowled, so I am now preparing a few batches of home made vanilla ice cream for the next youth activity.

In the words of Solomon, “It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows (Proverbs 20:25). Just ask the warrior Jephthah. He vowed to offer as a burnt offering to God the first thing he saw coming out of his house, which turned out to be his daughter (Judges 11:30).

(Bible commentary: I believe that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering, but devoted her, as a virgin, to the service of God for the remainder of her life.)

Fortunately I learned these important lessons in the context of fun, which brings me to one final reflection: Jesus had fun. He went to a wedding in Cana and a dinner party at Matthew’s house. His critics accused him of eating and drinking too much (Matt. 11:19).

Jesus is still looking for a good party, he’s just waiting for an invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20)

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
This entry was posted in Bowling, christianity, Elijah, Elijah, Jephthah, Old Testament, Proverbs, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Theology of Bowling

  1. janice says:

    Great posting, Corey. I recently had the same experience as you when I was in Florida. I used to be a pretty good bowler and thought I could easily beat my nieces but I only hit 100 once. I will not admit the other two. Your Biblical illustration is very good.

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