Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jesus in the Stands

Who knew that God picks his favorite NFL football team any given Sunday? I certainly didn't. He must though, to hear sportscasters speak about Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos. Apparently, he's a Christian and makes no effort at hiding it. Outstanding! More power to him. It don't mind a Christian sports player, whose job it is to entertain and inspire us with his competitive efforts, "coming out" and speaking of his faith in the open forum. On the contrary, he may even use the spotlight, if he's a good player, for speaking about how his faith inspires him to honor God and those around him with his integrity and work ethic.

What has come to seem more and more odd to me is the phenomenon of players pointing upward and thanking God for a successful play that scored points for their team. I have no doubt that they were praying for victory for their team prior to the game (and perhaps even during the game on one knee; i.e. random "Tebow-ing"). However, when the player points skyward and thanks God for the touchdown or kick that split the uprights, what in hell are they assuming? That God granted their prayer and guided the ball into the receiver's hands in that acrobatic artistry that would make Lynn Swann weep sentiment tears? Do they honestly suppose that the LORD blew his wind to nudge the pigskin away from the defenders swatting palm? What about the defensive end's prayer that he successfully stop the offense's advance?

If Tim Tebow's pastor is to be believed, God chooses NFL favorites not unlike how he chose ancient Israel from among all the other nations. But Wayne Hanson is not the only offender. The assumption of "God's favor" on a football team is communicated every time a player points upward as his endzone celebration and the fans in the living room dutifully offer the "amen" in the form of turning to the guest next to them sharing the popcorn bowl and musing, "That's good to see...a believer that gives God glory." Of course, the question "Glory for what?!" never gets asked. It's just assumed that God has something (ANYTHING!) to do with results in a football game, that he's chosen (for reasons that seem good to him) to answer the prayers of one team for victory instead of the other team's (perhaps no one on the other team prays...heathens).

You know what? That makes total sense. I think I saw Jesus sitting up in the stands during a game recently. He was the guy in section 117, row N, seat 12 with the rainbow hair and a cowbell. Clearly Jesus is an NFL fan. Heck, he MUST be. Why else would so many assume he's picked a side? I mean...THINK about it. Considering how many pastors make sure that church is out in time to watch the game, they must have gotten the memo: "Dismiss by 11:50 sharp. Jesus has sweet tickets on the 50 yard line and will NOT be in your service after the cutoff time." I like to think of Jesus painting his face and shaking his signed jersey in front of the FOX camera as it pans by.

"Absurd," you say? No more than assuming that the Holy Spirit miraculously helped the receiver drag that second toe in the back corner of the end zone while maintaining control of the ball all the way to the ground. If the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control, perhaps the praise could be offered that he inspired a little less excessive celebration, less unnecessary roughness, fewer prima donnas, more honest players admitting, "Yep. My knee was down on contact. I admit it." These things might be actually important to God, certainly more so than something as comparatively trivial as a touchdown.

The next time a player is tempted to thank God above for winning the game, perhaps they might stop and think of what their photo op says to the believer on the opposing team who was also praying for victory on the Lord's Day (not sure how the schedule of an NFL player allows for ANY church attendance for half the year anyway). I doubt very much God was interested in the outcome of the game, even less whether the kick was good. That dude I saw in the stand that I though was Jesus, was probably just a enthusiastic, mortal fan after all.

Besides, if indeed it's true that Jesus was a "friend to sinners," he's a hockey fan anyway.

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