Saturday, January 31, 2015

Seahawks: Lucky, Good or God's Team?

I like Russell Wilson.  Mr. Wilson is, of course, the unlikely quarterback of the National Football League Seattle Seahawks.  Tomorrow they attempt to win back to back NFL championship games. It’s not that I don’t like the Seahawks as a team. Let’s just say, “I am not a fan”, and leave it at that. You see, I had a great piece planned for today, and the subject was the way that the Green Bay Packers continue to function as a highly successful team. But, they did not function in that way, so, today I get to write about the Seahawks. Yippee!  However, one of my grandsons has Russell Wilson jersey so I will do my best to write something he would like to read while donning Seahawks colors.

You know, of course, that the Seahawks should not, by any mathematical model, be in this position of attempting the rare repeat.  All it took was (at least) four improbable events in succession. In the qualifying game against the Packers, the “Hawks” pulled off a fake field goal and scored a touchdown. You can count that as one or two events which should not happen in a game between championship contenders. Then they completed a 2-point conversion (instead of kicking an extra point), which happens as Mr. Wilson launches a pass to someone I doubt he could see, who is left wide open by the very men who are paid to prevent such atrocities in life.  Then, on top of all of that, they run a kickoff play that has some miniscule chance of success, unless the opposing team fails to do what they have been, we assume, practicing for a year.  Those improbabilities are all capped off by the 50/50 coin toss which was called by the Packers (“tails never fails”), and won by, who else, the Seahawks. The rest is history.

So, Mr. Wilson says, “God made me for games like this” or words to that effect when, through his tears of shock, he is trying to explain how this could possibly have happened again America’s team of destiny, the GREEN BAY PACKERS!  Which makes me wonder, were Mr. Wilson and the Hawks lucky?  Well, I am not a big believer in luck. My theology (the things I think about God) doesn’t leave room for luck or good fortune.  That leaves the option that the Hawks are good, which they are, but they are not better than the Packers. Aaron Rogers (Packers quarterback) said so when he told the world that his team was better. So, that leaves one option: Mr. Wilson is right: God wanted Mr. Wilson and his team to win. This smacks of sacrilege and heresy. I cannot accept this conclusion.  So, next year, do we pray for our team to win? Or do we  conclude that God doesn’t really care who wins a sporting contest? Or, he cares about some players winning, but not others? Who does the God you worship want to win?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Giving Meaning to Your Dream

Athletes, with their big, strapping builds, often make good body guards.  So, it wasn’t too surprising that George Raveling made his way onto the stage on August 28.  In 1963, as the United States wrestled with whether it meant what it said about race, it was a good idea to have some young men like George surround the most prominent advocates of racial equality. George stood steps away from Martin Luther King, Jr., who was the last speaker of the day, encouraging the massive Washington D.C. crowd of 250,000 people who wanted the nation to see that racial equality was not an issue which was going to go away.  King’s script, debated with staff and drafted by King until 4 a.m. that morning, was going well, but it was not rising to the rousing moment the inspiring speaker wanted. So, departing from his prepared remarks, he launched into a phrase and a cadence which had become a part of who he was as a man. King’s voiced lifted up the words that changed his life, the life of the movement; words that a listening nation needed to hear.  “I have a dream.”  The most famous words of the most famous speech of the 20th Century were not supposed to be a  part of the speech.

George, the volunteer security guard, liked to collect things. So, he walked the few steps to King, and as the crowd was roaring, he asked, “Dr. King, can I have that?” King handed him the folded papers, and so it was that George owns the most famous speech of our lifetime. (S. Davis, SI, 1.12.15)  But there is one odd thing about the pages. There is no “I have a dream” written there. George made two marks on the paper to denote the places where King left his text and instead started preaching from his soul.

I like to think that such moments are when a person’s spirit get caught up with the Holy Spirit, and God gives unexpected meaning to our dreams. For all of us, there comes a time, a moment, in which who we truly are is revealed. It may not be in a speech to the nation. It may not be a speech at all. But, there is a moment when we can go “off script” for God. Those will be the moments that reveal who we are; moments which define who we are our core. How we “let go” in those moments is how we will be remembered.  Our legacy is not by how well we stuck to life’s script; not by how well we obeyed all the rules; but how, in the defining moment of our lives, we had the courage, the will, to let our spirit sing the song which springs from our dream.  You may not see it coming, but life is going to offer you the moment to let go of the plan you have for your life. At that moment, step away from the script and let your spirit trust the Spirit’s voice so that God can give unexpected meaning to your dream.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jumper Cable Testimony

I would like to write something funny; or if not funny, at least witty, to start out this new year.  But my brain is not there right now. A friend asked me today, “How are you doing?”, What I told my friend I confess to you too. Which will explain why I am not writing something funny or even witty. So, may I tell you how I am?

You know how it is in December, at least in my line of work?  December is like pushing your car at 100 miles per hour for 31 days. (Not that I have ever driven my car 100 mph; not that I would admit to anyway.) So, when you go 100 mph, everything, all month is a blur, physically and emotionally and spiritually.  And then it is January. And my car (my brain; my body, my emotions) take a little break for a couple of days. And then it is cold. Really cold. So, when it is time to start the car all you hear is a “whirrr…clunk…whirrrrr…cough, cough….” No matter what you try,  that old engine just won’t start up.  And that is how I feel. So, my friend, who has a quiet yet biting wit says, “I will call Jill (my wife) and tell her to hook up the jumper cables to your brain.”  Hardy har har…

So, on these long, dark, cold nights I read.  I read a review of an old book about faith and reason, “As A Driven Leaf” (1939, M. Steinberg) The reviewer explains that the title comes from Job 13:24-25: “Wherefore hidest Thou Thy Face…/Will Thou harass a driven leaf?” The book ends with the main character reflecting on his life, and he is given to say, “Older, sadder, wiser, I go seeking now, through faith and reason combined, the answer to this baffling pageant which is the world, and the little byplay which has been my life.” (J. Epstein, Balancing Faith and Reason, WSJ, Jan. 3-4,2015)  That sound you hear right now is my brain clunking, trying to get going in this new year. But it is a cold engine without much spark to energize it.  I listen to the stories of dear family and friends and parishioners in these days and I try to respond with faith; but that faith is battling reason.

I cry for my dear ones.  I wait for answers, but like C.S. Lewis, what I get is “ ‘No answer.’ It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate gaze.” (A Grief Observed)  But. But then I hear the song with the woman’s life-affirming, “jumper cable testimony”, “I’ve Just Seen Jesus”. And, for reasons I cannot offer, I believe her (still; again). And I want you to do the same. So I back the car out of the garage.  There is work to be done. So many people I want to help believe that the woman saw Jesus. That Jesus will be seen.