January 21, 2018
By Rev. Chris Carr
View, print or save PDF: Sermon.01.21.18.SKOL
By Rev. Chris Carr
January 21, 2018
Jonah 3:1-5New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Conversion of Nineveh
3The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Mark 1:14-20New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God,[b] 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[c] repent, and believe in the good news.”[d]
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
I enjoy watching football. It is one of my favorite diversions in the Fall and Winter months to sit down on a Sunday afternoon to watch the Vikings, or at least the 2nd half after I get home from worship. Now, I have never been much of an athlete myself, certainly not in football, outside of a couple seasons of intramural flag football in college. But I do enjoy watching, or listening to, the game.
So as the youth and I were driving back from the ski trip last Sunday, listening to the second half of the divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on the radio, I was feeling the same way I, and so many others have felt before, disappointment, frustration, and angst over the game that had been going so well, and then the other team comes back and is victorious. So many times over the history of the franchise, such disappointment has happened to those who consider themselves fans.
And then, the unexpected happened. With 10 seconds left, the quarterback, Case Keenum, throws a pass downfield to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who made a great catch and ran it in to the end zone for a game-winning touchdown. The crowd was loud and ecstatic, the radio broadcasters were cheering, and Dawn, Gary, and I were sitting there stunned, saying “What!?!?!
I got a chance to watch the highlights when we finally got home and I watched with joy as Keenum led the crowd of 70,000 in the Skol chant, the Viking Rally Cry. (Demonstrate) A reminder of the communal celebration all as one, joined together in the Win!
Why do some of us have such an emotional reaction to a game? I think that is a question I hear from those who are not so interested in sports often. Why do you care about this game that really has no bearing on the state of the world? Too much money is invested into salaries, stadiums, etc. relative to the value and impact they bring to society.
Well, I can say that I hear and understand the critique. Having worked for and around professional athletes in my life, I can say that they are just like every other human being, while talented in their particular profession, and are no more or less entitled to love, respect, and admiration than anyone else. Some are exceptionally generous and caring and kind, and some are abusive, selfish, and arrogant. Just like the rest of humanity. I believe that we have an upside-down system, and if we were to ascribe salary and financial investment to a group of people, we are far better served by paying teachers millions of dollars than we are to paying professional athletes. And I know plenty of fans who are way over the top in terms of obsession and their investment financially in sports when they could be allocating funds for more societally impactful causes. This is the topic for another sermon on another day.
From a fan perspective, what I have found is that while some fans have affinity for a specific player or players, their loyalty is more to the team, the franchise, than it is to a player. The team is what they cheer for, they cry about, they complain online about. They see themselves as a part of the team as fans, and so they feel the wins and losses. They play a role in support, by their cheering and their attendance. When a player misses an opportunity to score points that will win the game, there is a sense that a teammate let the rest of the teammates, fans included, down and we hurt. And one an amazing moment happens, all of the teammates join together and cheer, “SKOL!” And those moments, where it truly feels like you are part of something bigger than yourself, that your time and investment has borne fruit of success for the team; that is why people care about sports. You feel like “we” were successful. We, the team.
If we think of this concept of “team”, this is something that many more of us can relate to. Whether team applies to the cast and crew of a play, a team in a workplace, the group that has been tasked with a goal and brings their gifts and skills together for that goal. These are teams that are clearly defined and either volunteered for, hired for, or assigned whether we like it or not. So, take a moment to look around, welcome to the team.
This morning, right now, this is a team. Some of you may have come this morning expecting that Sunday morning is the performance, is the game, and that each of you are audience members watching the game play out before you. Physically, we in the church set ourselves up like that, a little don’t we? This is not the stage, though there will be one here in a couple of weeks for our upcoming musical. Myself, Jung Joo, Emily, the choir, the band, we are not performers or the team. At best, we are coaches, more likely we are fellow teammates, mentoring and cheering each other on. We are all the team.
So you may be asking, what is the game, what is the performance that we as a team are tasked with success in? It is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, if we hold true to our United Methodist mission. It is to welcome, inspire, and nourish our community to be the hands and feet of God in the world, as we have claimed our identity as this congregation here at Lake Harriet. It is to love as Christ first loved, unconditionally, to stand up for peace and against injustice. To lift up those in need and be active in inclusivity for all gender identities and orientations and to celebrate diversity. Those who do so are part of the team, whether they know it or not. We need to celebrate those wins and successes, whether we be fans in the stands, players on the field, on the stage.
This is not the performance, the game, the big show. And yet, how easy does it become to treat Sundays like that. This is practice. Practice?! This is rehearsal. This is where we workshop stuff. This type of practice happens every week in churches, temples, mosques, community centers, etc. all around the world. This is the time the team comes together to regroup, to heal up, to learn new plays or techniques, to study up and receive guidance from coaches, to support each other. Even if you feel your connection to the team is one of a fan, but not a player on the field, or on a stage, there is time and space to regroup and prep for the next game. You are not a spectator, you are an active team member, whether it be your first time here or your five hundredth. So that when we are needed, even if we only have 10 seconds to make the right decision, we are prepared to act.
How often do we need reminders that we are on such a team? And are there times that we don’t want to be?
Jonah did not see him as a member of the team originally. And yet he was. God reminds him he is a team member by inviting him into being a prophetic voice to the people of Nineveh. Now, Jonah is reluctant, he runs from God, he wants no part of the role he is being called into playing. So, after some time to practice and regroup, while inside of a fish, he takes on his prophetic task of preaching to the people of Nineveh. Jonah reminds them of their relationship with the team, and they change how they are living to a new way.
In our Gospel text, Simon, Andrew, James, and John did not see themselves on a team, besides their roles among the community of fishermen. And yet, Jesus comes to them and says follow me. You are on the team, follow me, I have a new task for you. For a rabbi to offer such an invitation to them would have been extraordinary. Come, learn from me, and you can take what you know about the world and connect with others, so that may feel they are part of a team as well.
Jesus calls each of us as well. Whatever your role, you are part of this team. It is part of our task to love people so that they are reminded they are part of a team too.
And if this, right now is practice, when is the game? As soon as you walk out that door, it’s game time. When you are out in the world, in your school, in your work setting, it’s game time.
You may ask, don’t you need an opponent to be on a team? Our opponent is hate. Our opponent is division. Our opponent is greed and injustice. There is not a physical opponent but a philosophical one. People are not our opponents, but our brothers and sisters. Our goal is not to overcome anyone, but to love them and connect to them.
When we build a new relationship… (SKOL)
When we show compassion and acceptance to someone who has been left out (SKOL)
When we reflect Christ through servanthood and living out our faith through love and remind another that we are on the team together…(SKOL)