Seahawk fever flowed thick through the blood of Washingtonians over the past several months–for that matter, it infected millions ever since the celebrated Super Bowl win from last year. Like never before in our history, blue and green dominated the landscape of fandom as the local American football team went for a second world championship in a row.
All the hype is past now. With inches left between them and a repeat win, the Seattle Seahawks left the field to the cheers reverberating from the other side of the continent. Perhaps now is a less emotional time to raise a question, especially for those with ears to hear.
What is the price for fitting in?
Increasingly so, the closer it came to the big game, many church billboard signs took down their “Come Lord” slogans, and replaced them with “Go Hawks”.
One church in Tacoma hit front page news when some horrible person stole their huge blue game flag.
As I headed to prison to preach the gospel to a group of inmates, someone on the outside asked if I was a Seahawks fan. I responded–as our famed team was headed into overtime in the play-offs and about to win a second trip to the Super Bowl–that I was a Jesus-fan. She responded, “oh, ya, me too”, as she turned back to the screen (in the visitors center) with promises that if they won, she would go and buy team shoes and a jersey.
A head pastor of a large church told his audience: “God knows that we in Seattle tend to worship the Seahawks.”
The number of man appears to have been repackaged in Seahawks’ blue from 666 to 12. Over the past year, there have appeared in the Seattle area, more jerseys, flags, and signs with the simple number 12 than probably all other player numbers combined. 12 is the number of the fan, not the player. Quite literally, what that means is “go me”.
Week, after week, my family watched untold numbers of fellow church attendees, don the uniform of their devotion. Even the worship team, and ministers would cloak themselves in Seahawk garb. When the music leader would lead the congregation in a “Seeea – Haaaawks” chant, the thoughtful pastor would come up later and lead everyone in a “Jeee – suuus” echo. After all, this was church, and the Lord deserves at least equal billing to the great team.
True fans know how important it is to practice, what we call here, the Mo-Jo. As one guy told me, he waits to start drinking any beer until the start of the second half of each game. Others wear their lucky shoes–or in the case of Lynch–golden cleats. Of course, the ubiquitous jersey is absolutely necessary to wear all day long. It is especially helpful to go to church, even on game day, so as not to anger the gods, or God, or whatever. You don’t want to do anything that might jinks the team.
Such superstition hardly even gets a frown any more in the halls of God’s people. Meetings times were changed, or accommodations made in earlier service times, with jokes from the pulpit about how so many were changing their routines so they could “do both”. After all, Christians have freedom in Christ, and there is nothing wrong with being excited for watching talent on the big screen. It is claimed that we can bear the name of anyone we want.
But at what price?
“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”
“Will you … follow other gods you have not know [or that you don’t tend to think of as gods], and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe”–safe to do all these detestable things?
“Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: ‘Your brothers [fellow believers who worship with you] who hate you and exclude you because of my name [because you pointed out their duplicity of worship], have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ [similar to “Jeee – suuus”, and come on lets all just be happy] Yet they will be put to shame. Hear that uproar from the city [perhaps in the sports stadium], hear that noise from the temple [in our day called the church]! It is the sound of the Lord repaying his enemies all they deserve.”
It is Jesus’ emphasis in his parable of the wineskins and shrunken cloth. Do not mix together what the Lord intends should remain separate. Come out from her, and be you separate.
But many prefer to blend in. More people will attend church if they are allowed and even encouraged to “come as you are” and “stay like the culture around you”. The latter phrase is generally not stated, but in practice, it is the full intent and meaning understood by most people to be in the first phrase, because that is how it is practiced in many churches. You can do both, be a part of both, celebrate both, fit in to both–or so it is often promoted.
But at what price?
“They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do,’ and they did the things the Lord had forbidden them to do…so the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence.
“They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests.
“They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.
“Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.”
What it means to “be Holy” has been lost in the clam-dip and revelry of adoration for big money, big muscle, and big party.
But it is coming with a big price for those unwilling to repent and be sanctified, set apart from the world and its passions, to live with only one jersey of white, emblazoned with only one Name.
Of course the season is over, so all is well again, it is hoped. But is it? Will the sickness of false worship find a new priest and temple in your life? How about your job? Money? Maybe your retirement savings–you know, the pile of cash you are storing up in the big silos of your bank? It might be the coming sunshine and all the sunbathing activity of active living. Music? Alcohol? The power of foreign flesh on the internet or under the sheets?
The price has been paid–at least for those willing to submit under the Cross–otherwise, they demonstrate their preference for paying it themselves. Trying to hedge ones’ bets by playing both sides doesn’t ever work with God. It is him and nothing else, for not everyone who says: Lord, you are my Savior, will enter the Kingdom.
There is only one jersey, only one name under heaven.
Come Lord Jesus Come!