This is the time of year I get excited about sports. Not only have I been sitting alongside the field watching my share of High School softball games this fall, but October is post-season in my all time favorite sport. I don’t often prattle on in newsletters or in sermons about sports—I realize that only appeals to a small cross-section of Holy Cross—however, this time, if you will, indulge me.
The most exciting thing about post-season play is that no one knows who’s going to win. The teams going into the playoffs with the best record from the regular season sometimes get eliminated in the first round. It means that for every game a spectator is on the edge of their seat. I however don't get to watch many games in real time. I don't actually get to watch many at all. I hear about the outcome long before I see the game and I don’t have to tell you how that spoils it. I don't’ have to tell you because even if you are not into sports you too are bothered when someone blurts out the surprise ending of the movie before you’ve seen it, or reveals the plot twist in the book that you have been waiting on pins and needles to read. Once I know whose won the game, it takes all the fun out of watching it.
Playing it however is a different story. I enjoy playing sports whether I know who’s going to win or not. I always enjoyed playing the game, whether our team was running away with the lead or trailing miserably.
Spiritually speaking we are in the post-season. Scripture calls it the “last days” and Peter announced already at Pentecost in Acts 2 that it had begun. He said, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel, ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people...and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Acts 2:16-17, & 21) So if we may think of the “pre-season” as the Old Testament, before Jesus arrived. Then, his earthly life and ministry was “the season.” Now we are in the “post-season.” This is the play offs. This is the most exciting time. This is when it counts!
Only, Peter’s already let us in on the ending. Well, not just Peter—don’t just blame him—the whole New Testament actually. Yet Peter said it first, right then in Acts two on the very start of post-season play, at Pentecost. Peter said, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33) Then, as color commentary, he went on to explain: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36)
Now here’s the take home. If this were just a game for watching, you’d now have lost interest. You know who wins—Jesus. Perhaps that’s why so many Christians seem bored with their faith, and so entertain themselves in other ways, converse about other things, and rarely speak about Christ. If Christianity is just a spectator sport then we all ought to have lost interest in it, after all we do know how it ends. Yet Christianity was never meant to be a spectator sport. Jesus wants us in the game. When you get to play the field it doesn’t matter if you already know whose going to win, it’s just a joy to play the game. This is how Paul describes the Christian faith, “he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
We’re in the Post-Season, soon the whole thing will be over, Jesus will come back and we’ll celebrate his win eternally. For now, though, Jesus wants us on his team and in the field, and players in the field need to be ready. As Peter told the disciples of his day, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Have you been in the bleachers watching for too long? Do you need some help getting back in shape? Or, getting back in the game? We all do! Check out the Lutheran Hour Ministries Sunday coming October 13th, written about in this newsletter (see page 3). It’ll be a great warm-up and conditioning to prepare you for the position Jesus is calling you to play.