As I celebrate my Pats winning (another) Superbowl, I find myself reflecting on my teams: Chelsea FC (first always!), Bama and the New England Patriots. Let’s be honest, it hasn’t been an overly difficult last 20 years of being a fan for these teams. When I decide to bravely wear my easily-hatable team paraphernalia, I’m always asked: “why?!?!”
I have what I believe are great reasons for supporting New England and Chelsea, but a really compelling reason sits with Alabama. While Lindsay and I lived in Tuscaloosa (where The University of Alabama is located), on the campus, literally 20 yards from the stadium, it was impossible not to get swept up in all things Alabama. On top of that, I was paid to go to the games as part of my job! Free tickets to one of the greatest dynasties of all time! (I realize that may be where many stop reading… sorry.)
When I entered into Bryant-Denny stadium where the Alabama Crimson Tide plays their home football games, there was a buzz, an excitement, a feeling in the air that tingled with possibility. Every game carried the potential for ecstasy or misery. When we lost (albeit a rare day to be sure), the entire town seemed to go into mourning. A dark cloud somehow appeared out of nowhere and covered the football-crazed southeastern town.
But when we won… Wow! The high-fives, hugs, shouting, joy, all-around-jubilation was intense. Complete strangers cried tears of joy together in an embrace more familiar to life-long friends. Coworkers become family. Pain gives way to (even if just for a little while) gladness that soothes a community and lifts us higher, together.
That is one of the things I love most about sports, the unifying energy it can give to even the most “different” of people. Sports, in the good and the bad times, creates community, it creates a movement.
The Church should take a page out of this playbook. I’m not suggesting we begin putting on extravagant half-time shows or hire cheerleaders for our services. I’m talking about identifying a mission so singular, so pointed, so clear that anyone can believe.
Yesterday in church we read Jesus’ calling of the first disciples in Luke 5:1-11. While there is so much happening in this passage, I’m particularly drawn to how convinced the early disciples are to follow Jesus. Jesus had spent some time with them (healing Simon’s mother-in-law just a few verses before, preaching in front of them–from their boat, performing miracles in their backyard), but not a lot of time. Nevertheless, Jesus calls them to follow and they do. They drop everything they were doing and followed Jesus as he flipped their worlds upside down.
Outside of sports, it is rare I feel this sort of singular focus, this clarity for what I am “supposed to be doing.” Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt that there is “more” or “something bigger” than what you are filling your days with? I do.
And if this sort of “all-in” attitude makes you a little anxious, GOOD! (Click here to read what I think about “Holy Fear.”) I’m convinced there are few things more unifying than a common goal. When the whole fan-base is crazy-obsessed hoping for a win, the movement created in these times is unbelievable.
That’s how Methodism got started. A couple of guys gathered in a library and decided that they all wanted one thing: to take their faith more seriously. They wanted to live deeply and authentically into one thing: taking their love for God to a new level — a level that saturated all they said and did. They knew they couldn’t do it alone, so they did it together. They started a movement. Rather, God started a movement through them.
I want to be part of that. I want to be part of a movement of love for God and each other that is so convincing, so singular in devotion, so focused in clarity, so unifying and inviting in every moment that anyone who even gets close can feel the healing and loving energy of God.
Yesterday I said that the disciples left it all to follow Jesus.
They did this because they sensed Jesus was starting a “God-filled, socially-concerned, grace-giving, love-expressing, radically-hospitable, open, caring, compassionate, merciful, abundant and joyous movement of reconciliation.”
Do you want to be part of something like that? Do you want to be part of a movement that says, “you belong” exactly as you are? Do you want to be part of something that is strong enough to hold you in the hard times and tender enough to cry with you in the good? Do you want to be part of a movement that sees you, needs you, loves you?
It’s so much better than any win on a field. The movement of God calling us into closer and deeper love to God and each other is so much better.
I pray for you. I pray you feel invited into something this big and at the same time, concerned with your everyday ups-and-downs. None of us can be part of something like this alone. So let’s do it together. Wherever you are I pray you have a community of people who want to be part of something with you. I pray you feel invited as you are. I pray you feel the energy, the ecstasy, the overwhelming care and compassion of a loving and present God.
A movement isn’t about winning or losing. A movement isn’t about beating someone else. A movement like this is about healing and hope. It’s about joy and justice. It’s about care and compassion. It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about God.
There are pockets of this movement all of the world. Find yours. Come join ours if you’re in Charlotte (Yes, that was a shameless plug! But seriously, I’d love to see you at Providence UMC in The Net). If you can’t find one, let me know and we can find it together. This really is too important to miss. God loves you. I love you. Let’s share that unconditional love with all.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Cole