If I were to say, “Spectator sports is the real American god and the Super Bowl is its grandest temple and most resplendent worship service”, Christians usually grin with sheepish embarrassment. But they also adjust their Super Bowl Sunday worship services to make sure they’re in time to catch the pre-game show.
Pastors, priests, preachers and parishioners alike, usually dressed in robes and staid suits with ties wear team jerseys and affect strange headgear celebrating their favorite team.
Of course, this is all done in good fun! It’s only one Sunday out of the year! Surely Jehovah Jireh has a Super Bowl favorite, eh? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…
I stumbled into Romans 1:21-23 this week: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
Football wasn’t the first thing that came to mind, but the old speculative fiction magazine, SPECULATIONS representing the entire field. As a called missionary to specfic readers and writers (as well as children/YA-Teen fiction readers and writers), the implication was obvious: most specfic readers and writers know about God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. For me the problem is that they don’t “...honor Him as God…” The most honest among them might admit to an historical Jesus who was a good man with a decent life mission. The most rabid might believe that all of Christianity and its Scriptures were a fabrication of shrewd men bent on keeping people under their nefarious control.
As Paul wrote his letter to a Roman church he hadn’t even visited yet, he knew what they faced. The world hated Christians at that point. Very few outsiders “didn’t care one way or the other” figuring Christians were harmless. The Jews actively sought them out to kill them and the Romans made a Coliseum sport of Christian slaughter.
How do the Super Bowl, SPECULATIONS, reading and writing collide?
Clearly the Super Bowl has become “an exchange…[of] the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man” (can anyone in Minnesota say, “Brett Favre mania?” and remember the joy and Super Bowl speculation his Vikings stint sparked? Nah. We just hate him now…)
Speculative fiction takes the rest of the verse: “…exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image…of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” in the form of Klingons and balrogs.
So while we maintain our innocence in the Church and celebrate ignoring God outside of the Church, we come under the condemnation Paul levels at us. We have become: “…futile in [our] speculations, and [our] foolish heart [is] darkened. Professing to be wise, they [have become] fools…” At the end of the chapter, Paul was pretty specific about what will happen to us: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (verse 23). (PS – to those who will quote Romans 2:1 at me I answer, “Yup.”)
The cure is just as clear: “Therefore…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God…Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:1-8)
Truth. But then we love to skip right to Romans 5:22-23, accept our gift of grace and go on acting as if there is no obligation on our part. I mean, it IS a gift, right? True and there are some things between the condemnation and absolution that are our responsibility. As Christians in specfic and the Church, Paul is pretty clear about what that responsibility entails: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death…we should no longer be slaves to sin…Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires…Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness….You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
After the figurative slap in the face from Paul, I’m ready to go. While Super Bowl missions aren’t my area of interest, some of you may be called to sacrifice there. Specfic is my mission field and I need to take that whole death, offering and slave thing to heart and let it drive me from now on. Christmas is over. Now it’s time for me to do something. You?