The game in the snow storm at Lambeau Field last Saturday afternoon was simply wonderful to watch. It started out surprisingly. The Green Bay Packers running back, Ryan Grant, fumbled twice, giving the Seattle Seahawks a 14-0 lead just 4 minutes into the game. Then, lead by veteran quarterback Bret Favre, the Pack came back. They scored on their next 6 possessions; Favre threw for three, Grant rushed for three. Before the end of the game, Bret Favre was even throwing a few snow balls on the sidelines. There are just two more games this weekend, then the Super Bowl, then the long wait till next September. Don't you just love football?
So here is the question. How does a minister work football analogies into a sermon? The Apostle Paul often used sports and war analogies. He spoke of putting on the "armor of faith," the "sword of truth" and "running the race to the finish." How might football illustrate Jesus' message?
If life were like a play off football game, with the church opposed to the devil, then there are at least three observations which work for both the winning football team and for the faithful church.
First, success is about teamwork. We all have a job to do. The coach may send in a play that calls for you to run the ball. Then, even though you may feel shy, run the ball. Or, the coach may have sent in a play that calls you to block. Then, even though you feel like you ought to have the ball, block, and block with enthusiasm. Play your position. Take care of your assignment. When you sing a solo in church, sing it out. When you are the greeter, say hello and smile to everyone. When helping with the fund raising, do it with eagerness. When you take on the thankless job of leading Vacation Bible School, do it with gusto; take up your cross and plant it in the end zone. Play your position, and play it well.
Second, the opposition is not just going to lie down. The devil will attack. There will be safety blitzes. You will be rattled by hard tackles.
Your team may even turn over the ball, with a fumble or interception. The church will face adversity. Even Jesus was tempted when in the desert. But if you fall, get back up. It is a 60-minute game. Like the thief on the cross, our best moment may be after the two-minute warning has already sounded and we throw up one last, Hail Mary, prayer, "Lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom."
Third, keep the goal in mind. See yourself holding high the Vince Lombardi Trophy with a Super Bowl ring on your finger. See yourself walking in glory with the Christ, your soul wrapped in a body that never ages, or feels hunger or pain, a citizen of heaven, enjoying the fellowship of the Father, Son and the saints from all the ages.
John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn & Mansfield UMC. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org