Saturday, January 12, 2013

Church, Football, and Being There

Sunday. Church and football.

Early in my ministry career, my homiletic effort lacked timing on a September Sunday. Failing to know when the Green Bay Packers game started, I learned the schedule by fans voting with their feet.

In front of my very eyes.

While worshipers marched in cadence back to their pews after receiving the sacrament, one man announced below a yell, yet above a speaking voice, "Packer game." A handful of folks filed out. Many choices about church and football would come. I saw Packers caskets, Packers stoles, I even walked behind the Packers Pope around the periphery of Lambeau Field. That is another post.

This was not the first time the paths of football and congregational life intersected in my life. I know colleagues who lament that church fails to trump a football game. Some quietly stew in their resentment, others publicly question societal priorities, even to the point of shaming their own congregation. Some colleagues just feel defeated.

Is there anything to learn from football in the life of the church?

On some Sundays I've set aside time for football.

My Dad likes the Seahawks. I like the Seahawks. We had never been to a game at the newer Century Link Field. I had to cut short my time talking to worship attenders at St. John's Lutheran Church that Sunday in early November, but it's not something I do often. It was a good thing. I attended to my relationship with my Dad, and we did something together that we enjoy.

One thing I notice about the commercials related to football is that the ad is not merely selling a product, but reflecting relationships. The ads rarely show a solitary person watching a game, but a group of friends and family. One might argue that a gathering of fans isn't the deep interaction that happens in a church. There are significant moral questions related to football. But every venue for gathering has its own potential for shallowness or depth, sin or grace. The church doesn't own depth.

I don't begrudge any church member who won't attend the 9:30am service tomorrow at St. John's. The Seahawks have a 10am kickoff in a playoff match up with the Atlanta Falcons. My imagination gives me thoughts of people getting together and enjoying the company of important people. I'm not going to police anyone to find out if it was true.

I believe the life of the church is present not merely to build itself up, but relationships as a whole. I believe this is the example of Jesus.

Tomorrow provides an opportunity to "be there" with and for one another. I'll be at St. John's tomorrow (Sunday), ready to be there for the community, but I also joyfully imagine that people will be there for one another while they watch the game. After I give thanks for Christ's presence among the people of St. John's, I'll go watch the second half with my Mom, Dad and daughters. My belief is that Christ will be there, too. 

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