The World Cup is coming. It's possible you might not have noticed it here yet. The first games are still a week away and the US National Team doesn't play until next Saturday, but in some parts of the world... Wow! It is already consuming headlines. It's such a media buzz that, in those places, if you weren't aware of it, you were probably in a coma.
This cup is such a big deal to some that there have been murders committed over missed goals and goalie mistakes. This cup is much more than a drinking utensil. This cup represents the goal and purpose of life for some. They'd give their lives, and many have given the best years of theirs just to be able to hold this cup of victory.
Even though I am a sports nut - still, that is sad. A game consumes life. A cup becomes what a person is all about. There needs to be some perspective, doesn't there? As important as winning a game might be to you - winning at life is even more important. And that matchup, my friends, is intense.
Winning at life means defeating all the things that get in our way as we head to our goal. So if our goal is money or power - it means destroying all the others who are trying to have it for themselves ahead of us. But that's not our goal. Sure, sometimes we live like that and you make decisions that might demonstrate that, but our goal is greater. Our goal is not something temporal. Our goal is eternal. Our goal is happiness, goodness, holiness, righteousness, wisdom and justice. Our goal is perfection. Our goal is heaven. So our opponents are things like sin, death, shame, Satan, guilt, even ourselves.
And our opponents are too great for us. One sin and perfection is lost. Our shame and guilt prevent happiness and joy. Our natural selfishness turns away every attempt we make at goodness. On paper, logically, rationally, it looks like the cup of victory is out of our reach.
So Jesus took a cup for us. He took the cup of God's wrath over our sin. On the night before he was put to death on our charges, he prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." But our match was too lopsided. Jesus had to take that cup. And he did, drinking it to the dregs of scorn and shame and death on a cross.
And because of his work, the answer to his prayer on that cross was and is and always will be "Yes." Remember his prayer? "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." God has. We are. And so, now we do have victory over sin, and death (Jesus rose to give us that) and the devil ("The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work"). So we get to raise the cup of victory because the cup of wrath is gone.
We get to say with Paul, "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57). Just like a world cup win changes lives for those players and even their countrymen and women - this victory Jesus has given us changes our lives even more.
Come join us at Abiding Grace as we try to live with our goal in mind. As we do that, we're trying to teach the kids the same thing with things like our "Cup of Victory" Soccer Camp next week (June 7-11) where the soccer drills and skills and shooting for victory in the games will be balanced with reminders of the Cup of Victory we already hold. You can call the church office at (770) 385-7691 or go online to soccer.abidinggrace.com to register or for more information. Victory is ours!
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.