Congratulations to all of the Eagles’ fans in the congregation. I am sure that the city of Philadelphia will be celebrating their first Super Bowl Championship for a long time.
I climbed aboard the Eagles’ bandwagon this season and hoped for an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl, because I think that it would have been fun to watch lifelong Eagles and Steelers’ fans spar with each other leading up to the championship.
Had a Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Super Bowl happened, I probably would not have had as much fun this past week as I did, because I would have been looking for a way to support both sides—or, more likely, to stay neutral—given the number of Eagles and Steelers’ fans in the congregation. As a Carolina native, my go-to cheer would have been, “Go, Panthers!”
But the season played out as it did, and practically all of the Steelers’ fans in the congregation joined me in supporting the other home team.
When a secular event, like the Super Bowl, grabs the congregation’s attention, a minister has to decide: Do I embrace it, ignore it or critique it in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Obviously, I embrace it as I strive to meet the congregation where you are.
The Revised Common Lectionary actually helped us to acknowledge the elephant, or eagle, in the room yesterday since the Old Testament reading included the prophet Isaiah’s reference to mounting up with wings like eagles, and the choir, who rehearses songs weeks, sometimes months, in advance, sang “On Eagle’s Wings” as part of the service.
One of the advantages of preaching from a lectionary is that it helps us to focus on the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ without filtering Scripture selections through the preacher’s biases. It also protects the preacher from being accused of preaching sermons that promote his or her personal agenda, because Scripture says what it says regardless of what is happening in the world.
For years, I have considered myself a student of American culture, and I have always been fascinated by the extent to which sport, like religion, serves as a mirror that reflects who we are and what we, as a people, hold most dear.
First and foremost, I am a Major League Baseball fan (and am acutely aware that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training by the end of the month). I like the fact that the game starts at home (and that one of the goals of baseball is to go home again). The game isn’t rushed, and since it is not subject to halves, quarters or periods, baseball, like life itself, could conceivably go on forever.
Football is more brutish and territorial than baseball. A good friend of mine consistently argues that football is a better metaphor for life in the United States for these reasons.
Lately, football has been more overtly political and politicized than it has been in recent years. I know people at both extremes of the political spectrum who are deeply disappointed by the ways in which this season’s controversies unfolded.
Civility seems to be waning in American life and culture, and I believe that the church has the capacity and the opportunity to model the kind of love that brings about reconciliation, the kind of love that establishes healthy relationships in the first place.
If Pittsburgh’s fans can cheer for Philadelphia when the Eagles go to the Super Bowl because both teams are from Pennsylvania, then there is hope for us all, because we’re all God’s children.