Saturday, April 30, 2016

Last Shot Faith

Someone had to take the shot. Someone who believed had to take the shot. Someone who believed in what he could not yet see had to take the shot.

The game was tied at 74. Now, with seconds remaining, underdog Villanova had the ball and a chance to win a national championship in the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Junior Kris Jenkins inbounded the ball to one of the team’s stars and its leader, Ryan Arcidiacono, who quickly advanced the ball toward ‘Nova’s basket. The players were about to execute the designed play called “Nova”. Arcidiacono was the first option to try to make the winning play. Jenkins was the third option.

Someone had to take the shot. Arcidiacono could have attempted the shot, and if he made it, he would be a hero among the ‘Nova faithful for life and beyond.  But then he did something that defies the thinking of most elite athletes: he passed the ball.  What motivated “The Pass” was the shouting of Jenkins behind him asking for the ball, and the belief, the faith of Arcidiacono that Jenkins could; that Jenkins would make the shot.

The Thursday before the national championship game the team’s chaplain, the Rev. Robert Hagan, Father Rob, taught the team about Maundy Thursday by having them wash each other’s feet at the pre-game meal.  In modeling the servant lesson of Jesus to his disciples, Father Rob was teaching everyone about the fact that each team member was equal; they all served each other and a greater, common cause.  On the Easter Sunday before the final game Father Rob preached about the miracle of the Resurrection, telling the team that “faith is believing before you see, when your ship is on the horizon and you don’t know what’s on the other side.”

And now, full of faith in his teammate, Arcidiacono passed the ball to Jenkins, who was full of faith that what he could not yet see was real.  Someone who believed in what he could not yet see took the shot that someone had to take. Ball in flight, clock ticking to zero, swish. Faith becomes sight. Are you willing to take “The Shot”? Believe.

(Source: Luke Winn in Sports Illustrated, April 11, 2016)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Show Them Your Wounds

Wounds are evidence of life, or at least of having lived, and, at best, of being alive.

The evidence that Jesus’ friend, Thomas, demanded to see before he would believe his friends story that they had seen the Risen Jesus was the wounds on Jesus’ body left there from the crucifixion.  Thomas, we can infer, had seen Jesus die. Really die. Now his closest friends were telling his that this very man he saw die was really alive. “Show me the wounds and I will believe you,” said Thomas.

I was speaking with someone going through a difficult rehab from recent surgery about his own hard road. That led our conversation to reflecting on the other people we both knew who were suffering, some of them terminal diseases. What is the possible purpose God has in mind for allowing such suffering?  People much smarter than me have struggled with that question, and some of them have come up with some good answers, some not so satisfying. Most often my answer to people who are suffering is that I do not understand it myself, but I know that God promises to be with us in both joy and suffering. It is not God’s choice that God’s children suffer. God bears it with us.

You have wounds too, right? You are suffering right now, and you have doubt and fear. And if that is not true for your right now, it has been and it will be. None are exempt. Even Jesus. And if anyone never deserved to suffer it was this man, who was really perfect.  So how did Jesus use his wounds, the evidence that he had died, in some redemptive way? He used his wounds to prove he is alive. Thomas believed not because he saw his friend’s face, or heard his voice, but because he saw the wounds on the body of the man he had seen die. The wounds were evidence that the living man was the same man as the one Thomas had seen die. The wounds were evidence of new life.

It can be hard for us to show our wounds.  We prefer to hide our wounds. But God can use our wounds too, to show our families, our friends, our co-workers, what faith looks like.  It is the testimony  of a person assailed by life who  still can say, “God is holding my hand through it all” that leads the seeking to see Jesus is still alive. With you.