Who Will My Children See Me Worship on Super Bowl Sunday?
Fly eagles fly, on the road to victory!
That was the chant of the dozen or so people who squeezed into my living room last Sunday to cheer on their underdog Philadelphia Eagles to a resounding victory over the Minnesota Vikings. There was much jubilation not only in my living room, but across the city (evident by the news coverage of the thousands of fans celebrating in the streets of Philadelphia).
Like other Philadelphia fans, I have enjoyed the success of the team this year. It has been exciting to watch them overachieve and become one of the best teams in the NFL. I often find myself turning to the local sports radio shows when I am driving; I want to hear the latest buzz about the team. And I will be glued to the TV this Sunday when they throw their proverbial stone at that Goliath team from New England.
As I reflect on the experience of living in a city like Philadelphia during a season like this, I am reminded of both the opportunities and dangers that come from participation in and celebration of sports. I also feel the weight of what we pass on to our children in this arena.
I was saddened this morning as I listened to one of the hosts of Philadelphia Sports Radio speak of a college friend who will be rooting for the Patriots this week. As the host read the nasty exchange of tweets between the two, it became evident that the friendship would not survive this game. He ended by describing this now former friend with a crass expletive while his co-host cheered him on. Did that really happen? Did a friendship just end because of a game of football?
Already I cringe at news reports of out of control Philadelphia fans punching horses, throwing opposing team’s hats into the urinal at the stadium, and starting fist fights after last week’s game.
How are my children being shaped as they take this all in?
With all of the brokenness that becomes glaringly evident surrounding a big event like the Super Bowl, it would be easy to dismiss it. However, sweeping the sports-worship under the rug is not something I want to model for my children. I do not want them to hear an unhealthy division of sacred and secular from me.
What if, instead, they heard of a creative and personal God who gave us the gift of sports and the thrill of competition? What if they learned that the celebrations we see in victory originated from the God who taught celebration throughout Scripture, and offers the hope of an unimaginable celebration yet to come? What if they learned that the pain of defeat is met with a Savior who cries with us, and a God who draws near to us in comfort?
Here is another interesting thought: what if my kids learned how opportunities for community-growth abound when people celebrate their home team? There is a unique buzz around the city of Philadelphia at the moment. People are eager to talk. It is easy to strike up a conversation about the team and the upcoming game with just about any stranger on the street.
I suspect that when Paul said he became all things to all men – if he lived in Philadelphia in 2018, he would be one of the biggest Eagles fans around (and crazy as it sounds, if he lived in Boston, I bet he would be a die hard Patriots fan). He would engage his neighbor. He would watch the game with someone who needs encouragement. And he would probably share the hope of the Gospel and how all things are loss apart from knowing Christ – even an Eagles’ Super Bowl victory.
There is so much redemptive opportunity that arises around our teams and their games.
I listen as our radio hosts speak of the noble calling found in raising children who are Philadelphia sports fans. I chuckle as I hear case studies presented from callers who have weddings or family functions that interfere with the game, and the antics they employ to still be able to watch. Much of it is in good fun. I am glad to be part of the celebration. I want my children to enjoy it. I want them to be fans who join the community in rooting for our team.
However, this Sunday we will all gather to worship. I will sit with my children first at our church on Sunday morning, and then later in front of the TV on Sunday evening. They will watch me worship. What do I want them to see about my passion? What is the noble thing that I want to pass on to them?
There is a super bowl celebration of sorts found in Revelation chapter seven. It is a scene where every fan from every team gathers together, passionately waving their foam hands and fan paraphernalia. And they all cry out with loud voices saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And they gather with all of the angels and heavenly beings and fall flat on their faces and worship!
I pray that the energy and passion that my children see as I excitedly cheer my Eagles to victory will be a reminder to them of what they witnessed earlier that morning. I hope they think, “Wow this feels really familiar. When Dad is excited about something, it always reminds us of how he loves Jesus!” I desperately want my children to see that all of my other passions are simply a picture of the passion I have for the Lamb on the throne!
Sadly, I also recently heard of a sports radio guy calling our now-injured quarterback, Carson Wentz, “Philadelphia’s Messiah.” Our city is longing for a savior. We want someone to rescue us.
I want my children to see and know that the longing they have for a Messiah is met fully in the person of Jesus Christ. I want them to know His love so deeply and intimately, that they will respond by worshiping him as intensely as their classmates worship our football team.
But in the meantime…