Every culture has its own set of strange sayings that say one thing but mean another. Today I’m not going to shoot the breeze, I’m going to cut to the chase and spill the tea.
And if NONE of that made any sense to you, that’s ok; it will in a minute. But first let me welcome you to “Mornings with Bishop Robert” — thanks for joining me.
We Americans have developed some strange sayings, to be sure. “Shoot the breeze” has been around in the US since the early 1900’s and refers to having a casual, pretty much meaningless conversation with someone. Whereas “cutting to the chase” means getting to the point quickly and presenting crucial facts. (That one came out of studios producing silent movies.) So, you can’t “shoot the breeze” AND “cut to the chase” because they are opposites. I’m sure my UK friends want me to get to the bottom of the “spilling the tea,” because it might affect their national beverage! But as one might expect, this phrase has nothing to do with clumsily pushing over a cup. In this case the “tea” is only the letter “T” and it stands for “Truth.” This idiom talks about sharing an important piece of information, something you’ve absolutely GOT to know; and it could even be salacious gossip!
In today’s verse the Apostle Paul uses some idioms and says I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, FINISHED THE COURSE, KEPT THE FAITH
As he was writing this Paul had grown a bit “long in the tooth;” which is a phrase that implies that a person is old. (It came out of farmers recognizing that the teeth of horses keep growing, so old horses had long teeth.) He was sending a letter to his spiritual son Timothy. He was essentially “passing the baton” to him with a final letter and wanted to get his ducks in a row. (Passing the baton refers to runners in a relay race giving the baton to the next runner. Getting ducks in a row is a phrase that likely emerged from a shooting game at local fairs, and means to get things properly organized.)
Paul said that he had FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT. Anyone who’s tried to follow Jesus knows that it’s a battle. We have an enemy who is deliberate in his attempts to stop us, and he doesn’t play fair. But the fight of faith is a GOOD FIGHT, and Paul had fought it well since he met Jesus in a brilliant flash of light on the road to Damascus. It had required harder labor, more imprisonments, worse beatings, and being in frequent danger of death than his previous life – but it had been worth all that and more. Five times he’d received 39 lashes with a whip from the Jews. He was beaten with rods three times, and even stoned by a mob for preaching the gospel. Three times he was shipwrecked, and spent a night and a day in the open sea. When he says he FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, he wasn’t just “whistling Dixie.” (A phrase that means engaging in unrealistic fantasy.) His FIGHT had been a real battle! And he had the scars to prove it.
He had FINISHED THE COURSE. Paul often used athletic analogies to illustrate faith, and here he returns to one of his favorites – that of a runner in a marathon. For most of us, following Jesus is not a sprint. The course He has laid out for most of us will be measured in years of service, just like the Apostle Paul. A marathon runner requires determination, must know how to stay on course and not get sidetracked. They need the stamina developed by deliberate, focused training. Life — most especially life in service to the King — is a marathon. Paul knew he had run his race well and was approaching his finish line. He knew the fat lady was about to sing.
The first recorded use of the phrase “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is believed to be in March 1976 from Ralph Carpenter and the Dallas Morning News, a newspaper produced in Dallas, Texas. A basketball game was being played and the score was tied. Commenting on the game, Carpenter stated: “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” The phrase refers to something being over, though it is often used to encourage an underdog not to quit too early.
Paul knew he was done and would not be long for this world. But he wasn’t quitting early; he had finished the course.
Moreover, Paul the apostle had KEPT THE FAITH. He’d been hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. He always carried around in his body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus could also be revealed by what he did with his body. He put it to work, and he served well. His faith drove his actions.
Since most NFL football games are played over the weekend, it’s given rise to another phrase – “Monday morning quarterback.” It relates to someone e talking about how THEY would have done things differently – despite the fact that the game is over (which makes their solution useless).
One of these days you’re “gonna get flat” (which means to lie down) – and it’s going to be for the last time. And if you think you’re going to “Go Dutch” with God and pay your own way with your own righteousness, then you’re “bonkers” (or out of your mind). You won’t be able to “Monday morning quarterback” that one, because then it will be too late to make a decision to give your life to Jesus.
The time to make that decision is today, when you’ve still got a life to give. If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. Because “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”
But don’t push your luck. It’s time to cut to the chase and make your decision.