A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley
1 Corinthians 8:1-6; Gospel Mark 1:21-28

I do not presume that everyone here is planning on watching the football game this afternoon- but I do presume that you’re all aware there IS a football game today.
I’m not planning on watching it. I’ll probably be looking to get some exercise, and catch up on some work. I’m not really a football fan, though I have had a great time at any number of Super Bowl parties in years past.
But I was wondering- are there any reasons that I SHOULD be interested in football?
Well yes, there are.

There is of course the reason that almost all of the folk in my church are interested in football- lots of the people in every church I’ve ever been in have been interested on football, and I should pay attention to what my parishioners are interested in. But I’ll leave that reason aside.

Because there are other reasons, reasons that apply to everybody.

First of all, it’s a sport that challenges the mind with complexity of strategy and an assortment of variables that can always affect the outcome of the game. For the student of football, it’s good for the mind. For the mere fan, it’s fun.
Second, it brings together people from all segments of the community. People at the Lord’s Table talk about football. People talk about it in the halls of the Legislature in Juneau. People talk about it on the airplane and on the bus and in the corporate boardrooms and in the grade school lunchroom. It brings people together.

Third, it makes people feel good when their team wins. Of course, it makes you feel bad- really bad- when your team loses but hey, that’s life- right?

It’s amazing though, how communities identify with their team. I’ve lived where there were NFL teams and Baseball Teams and Basketball teams, and I’ve lived where there weren’t. There’s a difference.

But even where there are no professional teams, communities identify with college teams or high school teams, calling them “Ours” no matter who actually owns them or how marginal their actual connection to the team is. When a team or a player blows a game, we’re personally affronted, just as if one of our kids had done something scandalous. And when they win, we’re willing to overlook almost any their character flaws. Because the TEAM is virtually identical to US.

That can be bad of course, but when things are going well, it’s really good.

So I won’t compare football to food sacrificed to idols, not today anyway. And I won’t compare crazed football fans to men with unclean spirits. Not today anyway. But I will compare people who love God to people who love football.

What does that mean?

It means, primarily, that we’re rooting for God to win- and counting on God’s promise to us that God WILL win. Can I hear an Amen for that?

But it takes more than that to love God. After all, ANYBODY can cheer for a team to win. But those who LOVE their team will do more.

They’ll wear their team logo, and put bumper stickers on their trucks, and paint their faces. They might even get tattooed.

But there’s another word for what they do: they wear the brand.

Now, Christians don’t normally get as effusive about branding themselves as football fans do. But it IS an interesting idea to imagine tattoo parlors somewhere in every church. But the idea of branding, in its broadest sense, has some real value.

Can people TELL we are Christian? They certainly think they ought to be able to- sometimes they can and sometimes we feel guilty because they couldn’t, and it doesn’t depend on what jewelry we’re wearing or what bumper sticker we have on our car.

It depend on our words and our deeds, our minds and our hearts. Instead of getting tattooed, we’re supposed to be becoming more like Jesus.

Now, everybody knows who the REAL fans are.
They know the statistics.
They know the height, weight and age of the players.
They know where the players went to school, and what other teams they played for, and who their girlfriends are,
They KNOW what their strengths are
And what their weaknesses are.

So how well do we know those things about God?
Some people know a lot about God
And some people THINK they know a lot about God.

But what about the Apostle Paul? Did anyone EVER know more about Jesus than him?
Probably, maybe a dozen or so.

MAYBE they knew more than Paul. But what did he write?

“The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.”

There is something very humble about that statement.

If we think we know something, then we don’t know enough. Especially when it comes to God.

If you think a football team’s offensive coordinator thinks in complexities, don’t try imagining the mind of God. Paul himself famously described God’s thinking as “foolishness’ to the world.

God seeks our righteousness and has a passion for justice, and we ought not to forget it. But God brings those things about through counter-intuitive methods like forgiveness and mercy, and ultimately by the scandal of the cross.

God takes the long view, too, and our imaginations- no matter how far we project- can’t imagine the mysteries that abound in God’s plans.

There was a time when I was vaguely familiar with a team called the Washington Redskins. Their manager coach traded draft choices for players past their prime, and famously said “The future is now.”

They won some games, and even went to a Super Bowl. But they couldn’t build a dynasty that way. It would take another way of managing to do that.

So the thing is, if we love God, we follow. We listen. We see where God’s leading us, and we step forward in faith, always ready to be surprised, always ready to learn something new, knowing that we will struggle with the lessons but never giving up- because we trust and love the teacher.

But even all of that will not be enough, because if it were then God would be proven to be rather two-dimensional, and who wants a two-dimension god?

Not me, and not you- though at times it would be convenient.

Instead, we get something better.
We get mystery and grandeur
We get sacrificial love beyond our comprehension.
We get a god with a capitol G, a God who knows us.

There is something about the Bible- it doesn’t toss that word K-N-O-W casually.

It gets used a lot, but not casually. To know something, or somebody, was like a wife knowing a husband.

Paul used KNOW a lot in the two letters to the Corinthians- more than any other New Testament book other than the Gospels.

Earlier, in chapter two, he wrote, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.”

Who can KNOW what’s on our mind? Ultimately, not even our closest friend. Not even our lover.
As for demons, they knew who Jesus WAS- but they didn’t KNOW him.

But here, today, we hear that when we love God, God knows us.
And we see in the Gospel that Jesus- Jesus know God, in a way that nobody else ever did- and he knew the demons, in a way that nobody could imagine.

So today- how well do you know your team?
Are you twelfth man sort of fans?

Then let me ask you this, if you are: Do the players on the team know YOU?

Do they knew your heartaches, your weakness, your dreams and your struggles?
Do they know the depths of your pain, or the goodness of your love?

They don’t, because they can’t and we don’t expect it.

But God does, because Jesus invested his very life in us.
We were a losing team without him,
But he chose us

And the ones who love him- they’ve got that much figured out,
And it’s enough to help them hold on
Until the game’s over
And God wins.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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