Football, Specks, and Beams

January 29, 2014 | by Pastor Jim Harrison

Some people really like their football.  I like football, too.  I write that carefully because even as I write that I like football, I want to differentiate between “liking football” and being a football “fan”.  I like football in the same what that I like pizza.  I’ll eat pizza, and, if its good, NY pizza, I’ll enjoy it very much, but my life does not revolve around pizza.  If I hear that someone else has had pizza, and I wasn’t there to share it, I don’t go into a deep depression.  A football “fan”, however, lives and dies with his team.  I don’t really have a team.  If the Jets are having a good season, I’m a Jets fan.  If the Giants are having a good season, I’m a Giants fan.  And while I’m watching the Jets or the Giants, I may be wearing a Steelers jersey, simply because my wife bought me a Steelers Jersey when she found one with the name “Harrison” on the back.  I would disgust a true football fan.

A couple of weeks ago, I was made aware of a video making waves all across the interwebs.  It was a video of a true football fan.  What made this particular video so unusual is the fact that this football fan was also a Lutheran pastor, and the video consisted of his Sunday service which had been condensed to approximately one minute in duration so that he could get home to watch the 49ers playoff game which was scheduled for the afternoon.

If you don’t want to bother watching the video, the pastor comes into the church, asks people if they want to be forgiven of their sins, and tells them, “Ok.  You are.”  He then tells them that there is some bread and wine up on the altar and that they can help themselves.  He then, for some reason, kisses his biceps like a professional wrestler and opens his robe to reveal a 49ers t-shirt.  He then says, “I’m out of here” and begins to walk out of the church.

Now, as soon as I saw this I knew there was a blog post in it.  And in my head, that post consisted of a rant about the state of the church and the decline of the pastorate, and the responsibility of the congregation, etc., etc., etc.  Providentially, I did not write that post.  I say, “providentially” because it was soon made known that the whole thing was a joke and that the congregation was in on it all the time.  I’m not sure what kind of joke it is when everyone knows about it, but hey, their Lutherans.

All kinds of issues can still be raised in regard to what is appropriate for a shepherd of God’s people, and whether or not such a joke demonstrates a sinful irreverence.  It also raises the question of why such a thing was so easy to believe in the first place.  Frankly, this may have been a joke, but considering the state of the contemporary church, would it surprise anyone if it was serious?  I think that original post I had envisioned would still be pretty relevant, even if not directly applicable to this particular situation.

But what has made the greatest impact upon me as a result of this little joke has nothing to do with the state of the church or the decline in reverence.  It has to do with my own heart.  It has to do with my own tendency to believe and speak and react far too quickly.  A number of verses came to mind when I heard that this was all a put on.  

John 1:19-20, for instance.

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

Of course, since I was preaching through Proverbs at the time, some of these were still fresh in my memory…

Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Proverbs 16:23, “The heart of a wise man makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”

 I suppose that there is still plenty to criticize in this little joke.  But I may have a few beams to take care of first.

 Matthew 7:3-5,

 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

3 Comments

  1. While this video may be a joke and perhaps through satire the Pastor was perhaps arguing some of your points, it is not unheard of. In Wisconsin they literally have televisions in church during Packers season.

  2. Jim Harrison

    Thanks, Craig. I’m not at all sure that the pastor was trying to make any point at all. From all that I’ve seen, he and his congregation simply viewed it as a farce and were quite amused at the wide distribution it received. But as I say in the blog, there is a reason why it was so readily believed to be true. The church you mention in Wisconsin is certainly not the only one. I know of churches that keep the games on in the foyer during the service every week so that unbelieving husbands can “come to church” with their wives, sit out there, and watch the game while the wife is in worship. This is thought to be some kind of outreach. We could, no doubt, pile story upon story of this kind of thing. In Florida, and other places, I presume, you can go to a “drive-thru” church. It just gets sadder and sadder.

  3. I was hoping that Wisconsinites were simply extreme, but I suppose human nature is the same nation-wide.

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