What’s Your Game Plan?

            Tis the season for football!  Does everyone have plans for tonight’s game?  The Super Bowl is a big deal.  I mean really big!  Where else would you find people glued to the TV as much for the commercials as for the game!?

            The earlier video had a good message reminding us that we are part of something bigger.  That like a football player on a team, we are one piece in a larger puzzle of creation with a purpose to which we’ve been called. 

            Continuing with that football analogy, sometimes we are guilty of ignoring the coach’s call to participate.  We get comfortable watching from the sidelines as others do the work that the coach has called US to do.  It’s so much easier to sit on the sideline where things are clean and insulated from harm.  Outside of the mud and the bruises, life feels safe.

            But life throws errant passes sometimes.  Things don’t always go according to plan, even on the sidelines.  Players get tackled out of bounds and knock over reporters, coaches, and even players that haven’t gone into the game.  In reality, there isn’t a safe place on the playing field or the sidelines.  I watched one football game where the coach got hit on the sidelines and broke his leg.  Imagine that, even the coach will risk health for the game.

In the competition of football there are many different plans in place.  The coaches put a game plan together in preparation for their next opponent and rarely do those plans work out perfectly.  There are some players who are more interested in their own performance than that of the team.  There are players who prioritize their own statistics over the results of their team.  These players can upset the game plan. 

Better personal performance leads to fame and fortune.  And for some players, individual fame and fortune are more important than the performance of the team.  If their roles are reduced for the improvement of the team, they will be the ones who whine or complain.  They point out the faults of other players to make themselves look better.  They believe that they are individually bigger than the whole.  We’ve seen them.  You know who they are.  They are talking to reporters after the game.  They are co-workers in the office.  They might even live under your roof.

So what is YOUR game plan?  What is God calling you to do?  Let’s understand one thing first.  God IS calling you to something.  So sitting on the sidelines with the illusion of safety is not part of the game plan.  While we might not always be in the middle of the action, we are to be prepared at all times for action.  Because the game is not centered on our ability to keep clean and safe.  It’s purpose includes our getting dirty.

In the U.S. we are used to convenience.  There is almost always someone else who can do something for us if we prefer not to do it.  Our consumer driven economy has nurtured power and control that disconnects us from the messy reality that defines the majority of the world.  If we don’t want to get dirty, we’ll pay someone else to do it for us, as we fall into the trap of looking down upon those who keep us clean.

The problem with that outlook is that life isn’t clean.  It’s messy and it’s chaotic.  Everything we do to try to avoid the mess and imperfection is denial.  We are surrounded by messy, sinful humanity.  WE are messy and sinful humanity.  And so we try to hide from it.  We insulate ourselves from the problems of the world and send others to face the mess.

One of my former seminary professors (Dr. Matt Skinner) writes a blog for the Huffington Post.  Earlier this week he commented about the things we value. 

“If you want to see real wealth on Sunday, look elsewhere in the stadium.  The commissioner of the NFL has ‘earned’ a salary of $30 million in one year, working on behalf of the rich owners of the league’s 32 teams.  Full-service luxury suites for the big game are renting in the neighborhood of $500,000, and some could go for much more in secondary markets.  God knows what a beer in a souvenir cup will cost you.  All this will be taking place less than ten miles from Newark, where, according to recent figures, over a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.  How many Newark residents would be able to watch the game in person?”

            Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled for Jesus’ sake.”  Blessed are those who live in and face the mess.  Blessed are those who can’t deny the ugliness of life. 

Jesus Christ himself lived in the midst of the mess.  ‘The Coach’, if you will, risked his own health, giving his life for the game, the field, the players, and the spectators.  Jesus did not live in the comfort of the sidelines.  He lived in the middle of the mud and pain, owned nothing more than the clothes on his back, and called us to follow him.  Our glory is not in personal statistics, it is in our Coach, our Lord, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He gave everything, including his life out of love and mercy for us, even when we didn’t want it.  We are called to get dirty with him out of compassion for others, just as he got dirty for us.  Be blessed, my friends, in the middle of the mess.  Amen.