Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Replacement Justice

So the NFL has replacement referees... and they're stinkin' it up!  The call at the end of the Green Bay v Seattle game was a shocker. Then the NFL comes out in a statement and admits the refs missed a pass interference call on the play, but supports the ref's on the contested possession call. The Packers player clearly had full control of the football. I understand the league wanting to support its refs since they might be on the job again next week, but this just makes them look silly. You can watch the video of the play HERE.

There are some some pretty funny videos about the replacement refs on YouTube.  Here's a couple of examples. Enjoy!

Whistle (parody)

 Call It Maybe (parody)

In my mind it just highlights how deeply ingrained the value of "justice" is within our society. Although this is only a football game, we react against injustice. We want competent referees. The more blatant the injustice the louder the outcry. I heard somewhere that the NFL received 70,000 voicemails on Tuesday after the Seattle win. That's a lot of upset fans.

Some people I know have protested that there's more uproar about replacement ref's and bad calls than there is about serious moral failures within our society. This doesn't upset me. We live in a society of knee jerk reactions and media sensationalism. This is just another example.

Yes, in many respects the quality (or lack thereof) of the replacement ref's is really a petty issue in the bigger picture of life. But the same sports media took a decisive and proactive course when the abuse of Jerry Sandusky became public. Sandusky's abuse of young boys was not worse than any other abusive situation, but because he was a public figure his case captured the headlines. Again people were crying out for justice.

Sadly, it is true that we're surrounded by abuse and injustice and in many instances we grow callous to its presence. But even a referee furor reminds us of the heart of God. In Amos 5 God rejects replacements for genuine worship and holiness. Instead he says, Let justice roll on like a river. That's a vision we can all agree to, not just in the NFL, but throughout our society.

Monday, September 24, 2012

NFL Denominations

Just to prove I'm not the only guy out there who sees sports and thinks God!!!!

Here's a link to an article that compares NFL teams to various denominations. It's not particularly serious... so you just might enjoy it.

(While you're at it, here's a fun article by Josh Graves comparing Tim Tebow and Jesus. I promise, it's respectful.)

The Church of Christ is linked with the Cleveland Browns and characterised as "having a loyal fan base, but inadequate leadership". I'm not sure where the inadequate leadership line comes from. Perhaps it has to do with the congregational model of church governance.

Teams the Article didn't mention: (perhaps you can find a match. I don't care if it's a denomination, church, preacher... whatever... just have fun and don't be nasty!!)

Seattle: (Does Pete Carroll remind you of Joel Osteen?)
San Diego
Denver: (There's gotta be a line in here about seeking a Messiah!)
Tennessee  (Puritans, relocated to another land?)
Jets (All the little guys... Cumberland Presbyterians, American Baptists, Non-Institutional Church of Christ... Significant, but never quite mainstream.)
Cincinnati (The name sounds like "Sin" ... urban church plant maybe?)
New Orleans (C'mon, they're Saints!!)
Tampa Bay
St. Louis 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fantasy or Authentic?

With the completion of the first week of NFL games, the Fantasy Football Effect is in full swing. Based on the performance in one game fantasy owners are furiously dropping and adding players. (You did stay up until midnight to get first dibs on that high scoring free agent running back, right?) We know that the season can be made or ruined by successfully finding the elusive sleeper that you drafted while everyone else slept, literally.

This was a big fantasy week for tight ends with 10 scoring touchdowns. But I'm much more concerned about my running backs. In my two leagues only one of my starting or backup RB's scored in double figures. And this is the position that the "experts" suggest should be drafted first! I could be in for a long season if I can't find some points here. But it's only Week 1.... there's a long way to go.

Although fantasy football can be a lot of fun, we all make decisions about players based on very limited information. Everyone that drafted Toby Gerhart expecting him to share carries with a recuperating Adrian Peterson is now re-thinking that idea. Peterson had 17 carries and 2 touchdowns. Not bad for a wonky knee. But the team knew all along how healthy he really was. It's just the fantasy owners who are left in the dark.

It seems to me that church is often a "fantasy land" where people put on big smiles and wander around trying to convince potential fantasy owners that they've got a great season ahead of them. All their injury issues are behind them. Their faith holdout isn't an issue any more. They're a team player. They don't go out on the town after midnight. BUT, no one really gets to peak behind the curtain to see what's really going on.

Is this person reliable? Does "fine" mean, "I had a huge fight with my wife on Friday, but we're both pretending it didn't happen. The couch is fairly comfortable." Will that weakness that interrupted last year be a problem when it's tested again this year? (Of course, we don't get to look at the MRI and know whether or not the injury really healed.) Is your heart in the work ahead? Are you playing for self or the kingdom?

God designed the church to work together. To strengthen each others' weaknesses. On my other blog, I've just written how the Spiritual Gifts God gives individual are not intended for personal glory, but to be used in serving others. Consider a basic Godly value like "honesty". How honest are you on a Sunday morning? Are you more honest with other Christians during the week? God expects his people to demonstrate authenticity, not only towards Him, but toward each other.

The book of Psalms contains many songs that drip with raw emotion. Whether joy, anguish, anger, or uncertainty you'll find it in Psalms. Perhaps that's why this book is the most read of all the Old Testament books. God wants us to be honest. It's who He is. God is the ultimate reality. Let's not turn his church into a "Fantasy Kingdom" awarding points for fake smiles.

Who's your fantasy football sleeper this year?  Did you get him, or are you watching him inspire a winning season for someone else?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Beginnings: NFL

The NFL season kicked off last night with those Dallas Cowboys rocking the defending champs, the Giants of New York. College football began last week. Chi has returned to the world.

One great part of living with a foot in each hemisphere is following different sports. Last week MY Carlton Blues who at the start of the season guaranteed a top 4 finish bombed out without making the finals at all!!  So this Sunday MY Indianapolis Colts start their season. HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL!!

At the start of a new season anything is possible. Every team, or at least the fans, believes they can end the season holding the championship trophy.  This year in the NFL there are 5 teams starting rookie quarterbacks: Indy; Washington; Miami; Seattle; and Cleveland. In addition another 5 teams are starting quarterbacks just in their second season in the league: Arizona; Carolina; Cincinnati; Minnesota; and Jacksonville.

Each of these teams hopes that their guy will turn out to be a legend. They hope that their guy will lead them to the Promised Land, if not this year, then at least in the next two or three. But regardless of the age of the quarterback everyone gets a new start, a fresh beginning. Success or failure: what happened last year is in the past. This year provides a fresh slate an opportunity to confirm or disprove the impressions fans formed based on previous performances.

Last night we saw that. I kept seeing stats for Eli Manning 4th quarter comebacks in 2011 (7) compared to Tony Romo giving up 2nd half leads in 2011. First game of 2012, none of those stats mattered. Eli couldn't mount a comeback, Romo didn't crumble. New year. New opportunities. This year, a legacy can be made.

It amazes me how many people fail to understand that Christianity is all about this same fresh start. Because of Jesus we can leave our past performances behind us and move on with a clean slate. Our opportunity is even better than professional sports. Two or three bad seasons will see you off the team and maybe even out of the league for good. But God keeps giving us new opportunities each time we mess up.

Many people want to present Christianity as a worldview fueled by hate, or the Bible as a legal code that's impossible to keep. In reality God gives us a vision of hope. He gives us excitement that our new season will be a Championship season. We'll encounter some losses along the way. We may even go stretches when people give up on us (2011 Giants??), but God will never give up on us and will present us with the eternal crown He's saving for all his champions.

In sports, only one team can win. The hopes of 31 NFL teams will prove futile this year. But with God, once we join his team we don't just hope, we know, we're going to win.