The Jersey

Living in Green Bay, WI it is impossible to not be exposed to the phenomenon that is the Packers. You can walk down the street at ANY time of year and I bet you will see someone who has decided that, ‘today is a green and gold day’ to show their spirit for the pack. I was driving down the highway after a round of golf the other day and I was passed by a restored station wagon from the ‘50s (I think) that was meticulously painted in green and gold, had a silhouette in the window of Vince Lombardi, and a license plate that said ‘St Vince’. It is hard pressed to find a more passionate town than Green Bay, WI. On a ‘Packer Sunday’ when I go to church, you see have the congregation in jerseys from Packer stars both current and past (though I haven’t see many Tony Mandarich jerseys… What?!? STILL too soon?). As I walk into our church I’ll inevitably see a lady wearing a ‘Clay Matthews’ jersey or some guy wearing a ‘Favre or Rodgers’ jersey and I’ll ask my kids, ‘Shouldn’t they be at the game?!?’. They just roll their eyes. But it got me thinking… Why is it always the women wearing the Matthews jerseys?!? Ok, that wasn’t the thought, just a curious observation… No, the REAL thought was about how important it is for us to show our passion for our team. It can also be a parallel to our faith.

The Identity:
When we wear a jersey for a team you are show you are passionate about that team, but it doesn’t make you an athlete. If I wear a Michael Jordan jersey, NO-ONE is going to confuse me for him. Why? Shorter, can’t dunk, bad at dribbling, (do I need to go on?)… Just like putting a fish on my car, wearing a cross on my neck, or walking into a church doesn’t make me a Christian… My faith and God’s grace do that and my actions (hopefully) show it.

The Conflict:
Years ago I had a rep come into town from Chicago. We went to a sports bar in Green Bay that happened to have live music. We sat down and someone else walked in with a Bears jersey on. A member from the band spotted the obvious fashion issue and stopped the music, only to break out in a raucous rendition of, ‘The Bears still suck…’. Some of the ‘meaner’ patrons also joined in (this is why I said hopefully above). In sports this can be just playful banter between team ideology and identity, but in the church it can be devastating. In the churches people think that ‘their faith’ jersey is the ‘right faith’ and that all others are not good enough. Baptists have it better than Catholics who know more than Lutherans. And don’t get me started on those ‘non-denominational churches’! Even within a denomination there is unrest. People hop from church to church more often than an NBA player demands to be traded. Why? Same reasons… vanity, greed, egos, politics, and pride. Only difference is the size of the contract. As the church we should be united by one truth… Jesus is our Lord and savior and the only way to heaven is through Him!

The Passion:
People wear, paint themselves, cheer and debate for their team. They show their pride with the ferociousness of a 300 pound defensive lineman. But when it comes to our faith we can sometimes be lukewarm at best. Why? We are told that we should not offend, or rub people the wrong way. But it’s ok to yell, ‘The Bears still suck’ while having half of your face painted green and the other gold?!? Now I’m not saying we should walk into another religions service and stand-up singing, ‘Your faith still sucks…’ Not what I think God would want! But, we should NOT be lukewarm about ours.

The Promised Land:
In all sports people cheer on their team in order to get to the playoffs and then to the championship. The team who is most talented and executes the best usually wins it all. It’s all a matter of effort. As a Christian, our ‘coach’ put in all the effort and has already won the championship. We just need to put on the jersey and play the game by His rules. And the best part is… Season passes on the 50 yard line in the promised land for eternity for free.
So the next time you put on a team jersey, paint your face, or throw an obscene amount of money at tickets for the ‘big game’ think about how your ‘team passion’ stacks up to your ‘faith passion’. You are part of the ultimate team ever created and coached by the ultimate coach. And that’s a team jersey worth wearing.