Imagine with me for a moment that you are at a football game. The stands are filled with energy as the players emerge on the field for the opening play of the game, and the crowd is elated as cheers and wishes for good luck are thrust from the stands to the field. For these two and a half to three hours, everyone in the stands (on either side) are unified for one purpose, to win the game. For these three short hours, neighbors who had been arguing about property lines and barking dogs just hours before are now cheering next to one another for “their” team, heated debates at last night’s school board meeting cool as efforts are reorganized and refocused on the big game, and a variety of people from many different backgrounds and experiences are joined together in rooting for “their” team.
I just finished looking up the standings in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 6 State Tournament, and it is exciting to see the Manchester Dutch Football team taking on another great team from our area. You may be asking why I am talking about football in our church newsletter. Well, it’s because I believe we have a lot to learn from the experience of joining with others, watching what happens between the gridirons. Three parallels, or lessons on faith stand out for me from these experiences:
1) For three hours, time stands still. Think about the focus, the energy, the anticipation we pour into preparations for the big game. We gather our team pride swag (t-shirts, bumper stickers, noisemakers, those big foam hands, etc.) and block out enough time from our busy schedules so that we are not late for the first kick (and we want the best seat in the house!) The question is, do we view our worship the same way? Do we get involved to such a degree in our worship that our focus on what’s most important is brought into clear vision? Do we see the others in the stands (pews) that desire the same outcome (to grow closer to God)?
2) Although our backgrounds are different, our cause is the same. The week before may have been filled with disagreements and disputes between neighbors, but for the duration of the game, resources are funneled into an energy for cheering on the team and not on winning the argument. The question for us is whether or not we follow Christ’s lead and “remember that (if) your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, emphasis added). Are we willing to be so bold in our worship to offer forgiveness and seek reconciliation with those whom we disagree?
3) Team spirit involves so much more than buying the t-shirt. So, you’ve got the t-shirt, the hoodie, the water bottle, the seat cushion, and the noisemaker; you’re a fan, right? To some degree, offering a cheer now and then is seen as support for the team. However, to be a true follower requires commitment and dedication to the team. How do you respond when your team loses? Do you abandon them and go cheer on someone else? Or, do you spend some time with the team, encouraging them to get back up and get at it again? Truth is, it doesn’t matter if you wear the label (i.e. Christian); if you don’t walk the talk, the swag doesn’t matter.
This time of year, we are reminded that we are all part of the same team. As Thanksgiving approaches, and Advent is peeking around the corner, our time will be filled with opportunities to let our light shine as those who are resourced through The Light of the World. Family meals, workplace gatherings, and school programs dot our calendars. Not to mention the opportunities to worship with our extended family at MUMC. The question is, will we remember our identity as those who bear the image of Love? As those whose lives are marked by the indwelling of the very breath of the Creator? I pray that you do remember who you are and whose you are. Pray that I will, too.