Anybody who knows me very well is probably aware of the fact that I’m not much of a sports buff. A good bit of this, no doubt, stems from my childhood when I suffered from asthma so badly that I couldn’t run down the block without turning into a wheeze machine. Needless to say, I didn’t make much of an athlete in games like football and basketball, which require a lot of running.
I was watching the Mavericks play against the Milwaukee Bucks this past Tuesday night. It was a tight game up to the end, but the Mavs took victory in the final minutes as they so often do. And, at the end of the game, there was clearly a winner and clearly a loser.
That’s when it hit me.
Given the fact that I don’t really care all that much for sports, I’ve often wondered what the attraction is for those who devote endless hours to watching football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or whatever the sport of the season might be. But, as I watched the Mavericks sweep past the Bucks on Tuesday night, and as the final buzzer sounded, it occurred to me that this was the reason people like sports – there’s always closure with a clearly defined outcome. And it’s not a conclusion you can always see coming.
Sports define life in very simple terms. Games may be full of intricate rules and esoteric John Madden terminology, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the simplicity of one winner and one loser. Everything is tied up in a neat package when the game is over.
I think we like sports because they provide us with something we don’t often see in real life – a clear, unmistakable result (think about the last couple of presidential elections!). Life tends to be messier than sports in terms of the payoff. Our relationships go bad. Our businesses go belly up. Our children don’t turn out quite like we had hoped. Such clarity isn’t always available in real life and winners don’t always end up on top.
As Steely Dan used to sing, “They’ve got a name for the winners in the world; I want a name when I lose.” There’s more gospel in that song than in many of the sermons I’ve preached over the years.
Of course, in other ways, sports are exactly like life. There are twists and turns along the way. People drop the ball and someone else runs away with it. Injuries are incurred, sometimes life-changing ones. One second there’s ecstasy; the next there’s agony. And, as was the case on Tuesday night, the Mavs came from behind to pull off a late-game victory, reflecting the reality that, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Or, as Frances Mayes said in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, “Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. It's such a surprise.”
I think Jesus would agree with both Yogi and Frances. Faith doesn’t always give us the clarity that we get in sports. Life doesn’t hand us ready-made winners and losers. But, the beauty of sports is certainly – as it is in life – that the outcome we think is locked in stone (or etched on a scoreboard) isn’t always the one we get, even if we have to wait until late in the game to see it turn around.
This is the latest in the Left Behind franchise of goodies designed to create a force of cheeto-munching gnostics who believe the earth is destined for destruction, as opposed to the grand narrative of hope for God's new creation.
Gee, whatever happened to all that concern among the Dobsonalia for violence in video games? Oh, wait...I get it...that doesn't apply if you're fighting for Jesus.
Oh, well...get ready...
And out comes a man from Mars And you try to run but he's got a gun And he shoots you dead and he eats your head And then you're in the man from Mars
Robertson's hearing things again. Given his track record, I wouldn't be too quick to buy that latest "Survival Kit for Goofballs" that'll probably be appearing on 700 Club commercial breaks.
Maybe he just misunderstood. God might have meant "mass kissing". Or, maybe it has to do with aliens and is possibly a "mars killing" or a "mass kidding" which would make the whole thing a joke (which it probably will end up as).
Rob Ashgar, who converted from Islam to Evangelical Christianity has a dynamite article here on his own journey through the underbelly of the church. Link is here.
The spiritual journey, insofar as it joins all of us together, requires a decision about where to live with certainty and where to live in mystery. For evangelicals, certainty is simply too certain, mystery simply too absent.
I was at a Christmas dinner (I'd be overstating to call it a "party" in any sense of the word) last night. The dinner was our annual gathering of pastors and other people from our district - a basic rubber chicken affair with some light entertainment and lots of laughing and talking and a bit of politicking thrown in for good measure.
Anyway, one of the attendees, a person I've known awhile, and I were visiting. He's planting a new church out in the eastern reaches of the metroplex. It's all the things it's supposed to be: postmodern, emergent, art-filled, casual, etc. I've always thought it's a great idea in the wrong place and he'd probably agree with me that it wasn't exactly what he had in mind in terms of location, but he's made the best of the situation and is doing relatively well from what I'm hearing.
During our conversation, he made the comment that he was meeting some "wonderful pagans." Now, I have no idea what, exactly, he meant by that, and he didn't clarify, but I just had to wonder why he felt the need to classify them as "pagans." Are there white witch/gaian/wiccans in abundance in this area? I had to wonder. It's really more of a rural community, although it is growing by leaps and bounds and is now a bona fide extension of the DFW sprawl.
Anyway, my overall sense of what he was saying was not so much that these "pagans" were practicing mushroom sorcery, but rather that they were simply people who weren't churched. I could be entirely off-base here. Maybe they literally are pagans. I don't know. But either way, something didn't set right with me about this designation.
I remember, a few years ago, being at a conference sponsored by a group called Off the Map. The meeting was up at the Cincy Vineyard and Julie Bogart's husband Jon was one of the event planners around this thing. The topic of the weekend was on the legitimacy of using the term "lost" to describe folks outside the church. They had a pretty good number of unchurched folks on the platform to talk about how this language made them feel. A few of them said it made them mad; others said they understood the language, but felt that it was degrading; and some said it was just flat inaccurate - they didn't "feel" lost. So, now, Jim Henderson and others at Off the Map have come up with the rather bulky and somewhat inane observation that we should designate these folks as "the people formerly known as lost" or "AKA lost" - you get the idea.
Anyway, I was thinking last night about all this and wondered whatever happened to people? Jesus talked about the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son, no doubt, but he focuses his energies on people. Just people. Sick people, lame people, blind people, hurting people.
I get tired of all the categorizing. I sometimes feel like I have to be a psychographic specialist just to understand everything I should about doing church.
Either way, I think it would have just been more appropriate for my friend to say, "I've been meeting some wonderful people" without assigning all the other baggage to that experience.