By Rev. Stephen Dale, It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Well, no, not really. But it is pretty awesome. Because it’s football season! I love football!
Actually, ok, no, not really again. It’s PREseason football. Which isn’t really football at all. But give me a break. It’s been a long offseason and my Steelers are playing something approximating football tonight. And I’m psyched.
I really do love football. I watch every Steelers game. And when the Steelers aren’t on, I watch any game that is. But the funny thing is that football isn’t my favorite sport. My favorite sport is baseball. But if you’ve ever payed attention to baseball, well, you know it’s not easy. It’s not that the game is slow, it’s not. There’s movement all the time. There’s strategy in positioning the players. There are plays put on for runners. There’s always something going on if you’re a student of the game.
But it’s hard to watch baseball, because there’s so much of it. 162 games makes a long season. If you’re dedicated to watching it, well, that’s pretty much your summer hobby. Put away the camera. Put the kayak back in the garage to gather dust next to the tent and the bicycle. If you’re watching baseball, you’re WATCHING BASEBALL.
And as much as I love baseball, I just can’t commit to it, all day, every day.
Football is well, more palatable to the viewer. Once a week, your team plays (GO STEELERS!) Maybe you watch one or two other games, if they’re going to be good games. But there’s so much less commitment to football, and so much action when it’s on.
You know, in a strange way, it’s kinda like church.
At least, for a lot of people.
Once a week you go to church, you have an hour (or two, or three ) of spirit-filled, uplifting worship and then you’re done until the next game er service.
But, friends, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
Weekly worship is a big thing, it’s an important thing. God wants us to be in community together, to support one another, to learn from one another, to question each other’s beliefs when they demand questioning, and listen to each other when our own understanding may have fallen short. God wants us to worship together so that our spirits can be recharged for the week ahead, so that our souls can be healed of any damage they might have sustained in previous week and most of all so that we can come together, celebrate God, and be reminded that God’s unconditional love is God’s gift to all of us, both individually and in community.
But that’s not all we’re supposed to do, that’s not all we’re supposed to seek!
The Apostle Paul wrote, in his first letter to the churches in Thessalonica, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [1st Thessalonians 5:16-18]
Wow, that’s hard!
Really, pray always? There are no times when we should not be in prayer? That’s tough!
That’s got to be impossible!
That’s like watching baseball!
Look, I’m a life-long Christian, and a pastor to boot, and I have to tell you, I am not always in prayer. I can’t be.
But the truth is that Paul is showing us his wisdom. Maybe not that we have to constantly walk through lives on our knees with our heads bowed and our eyes closed, but rather, that the truth of God’s unshakable love is that it is there for us in all circumstances, no matter what, and no matter what we can always turn to God; in our joys and sorrows, in our trials, in our frustrations, in everything that happens, good and bad, in our lives as humans in this world, God’s love, which we know as God’s grace, is there, waiting for us to call out God’s name.
So listen to Paul. Accept his truth, but understand that you can still live your life, and you can still have hobbies. You can bust out the kayak and the fishing poles, and ride your bike till your heart’s content without feeling guilty that you’ve spent more time each day on your feet than on your knees.
But remember to be intentional to spare time for God. Maybe not unceasingly, but with unflagging resolve bring your heart to God in prayer, with your sorrows, your fears, and your thanks, and you’ll find that God really IS listening.
And Go Steelers.
Rev. Stephen Dale is a pastor of the United Methodist Church who has been appointed to Bennington to start a new community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (802) 440-0217, or at http://www.revanchorman.org.
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