108,000 devotees all wore white, paid an average of $70/seat and embraced having to stay “overtime” to cheer and celebrate and fan the flame of a Nittany Lions victory over Michigan in Beaver Stadium in Pennsylvania on Saturday. It was a nailbiter. It not only went down to the wire, it went four overtimes over the wire. But no one left, not even ESPN, which was scheduled to air another game. All eyes were glued to the gridiron where unranked and scandal-beleaguered Penn State toppled 18th-ranked Michigan in a 4-OT thriller.
At the end of the game the Penn State coach literally dropped to one knee – exhausted. Both teams gave it their all, living sacrifices so to speak. And so did their fans. Even at our house, where no one attended either school, we were cheering and screaming and periodically on our feet. Our emotions rose and fell with each fumble, missed field goal and when the Nittany Lions went for it on fourth down in the fourth overtime, we held our breath.
The play clock ran out but no one checked their watch, furrowed their brow and scowled at the announcers. Nope, they not only stayed joyfully through four overtime periods, they remained to sing the school’s fight song with the team, helmets held high.
Just like church, right?
People sacrifice and cheer and spend their time and money on what they really love. And in America that’s entertainment. This time of year it’s college football, the NFL and the baseball World Series. When you watch the games, watch the fans. Consider how much time, money, energy and passion they are expending on something that does not lead to life, does not advance the Kingdom purposes of God and does not edify His people.
Then consider why people prefer sports and other entertainment to what passes for “worship” at your church.
Why do we not love God with the level of passion demonstrated for football?
Why do we not know the songs of the faith and sing them with the kind of fervor we sing our school fight songs?
Why are willing to invest many hours preparing for, getting to, tailgating at, attending and celebrating our favorite team but we are unwilling to give God more than an hour one day a week?
Why do we find a richer fellowship at a tailgate party than with people with whom we are going to spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven?
It’s not about the “White Out” theme, it’s not about the media hype, it’s not about the game being played, it’s about the love in the human heart that finds its passion in substitutes for the living God. It’s about idolatry, and we are all prone to it.
Whatever else you do today, confess to God that there are things in this world that you love more than Him. Your calendar, your checkbook and even your wardrobe betray you so there’s no sense in trying to hide it from the Lord. He knows where your heart is and He knows your loyalties are divided – the passion of our personal worship of lesser gods gives us all away.
My husband and I are Penn State alumni. We’ve had season tickets for 3 decades. We were among the 107,000 present on Saturday night. It was so much fun. Ups and downs. And then up, up, up when we finally took the win. I actually think about the worship comparison quite a bit when I go to games, and I’m sure for some the whole game day experience is what fills their hearts each fall. For some of us pastor-types however, the game day experience is a standing (leave the stress of ministry behind) day-long date with a spouse we haven’t seen much in the previous days. Awareness, awareness, awareness of our tendency to idolatry is key. I don’t want to have any gods before my GOD. May he protect me from my flesh as I simply and gratefully enjoy some fun with my husband and 107,699 other close friends 🙂
Whoops. I meant 106,999!
Sister Carmen, you are spot on! And as you say, it’s no just football (which I think is the greatest athletic game ever invented), but all the entertainments we use to provide a sense of excitement, belonging, identity, escape/security, and on and on, instead of God Himself. And the time and energy and money we pour into them reveal them for what they are: part of a pantheon of idols. Until there is repentance and revival in the Church (and I mean among us evangelicals) what hope is there for the world, especially America?
Yeah, I saw it too in my previous post. Make that “not just football”.
Such is our culture, even for most Christians. Calls to mind Neil Postman’s prophetic (not pathetic) little book:
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985)
There is a place for entertainment, diversion, relaxation to be sure. But a gross imbalance distorts our chief end to enjoy GOD and glorify him forever. His creation is the theater of his glory, and those created in his image are particularly called to proclaim it therein.
Excellent, and yet sad, comparison Carmen, but I would add one important footnote. Not only did everyone (excluding the Michigan fans) sing Penn State fight songs at the end of the game, they also sang our University’s alma mater, which contains some great lyrics:
For the Glory of Old State
For her founders strong and great.
For the future that we wait,
Raise the song, raise the song.
Sing our love and loyalty,
Sing our hopes that bright and free
Rest, O Mother, dear with thee
All with thee, all with thee.
When we stood at childhood’s gate,
Shapeless in the hands of fate,
Thou didst mold us dear old State
Dear Old State, dear old State.
May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name,
May our lives but swell thy fame,
Dear old State, dear old State.
That last verse always reminds me that we, as Christians, need to consistently do and say things that bring honor and glory, rather than dishonor, to our Lord so that our lives swell God’s fame throughout the world.