What raises your blood pressure?
Last weekend was a rare treat. I piled into the car with friends and headed for a weekend of sports.
Sunday afternoon found us in Seattle for a Seahawks game. It was my first time in any NFL stadium, and I am still processing the level of fanaticism we experienced.
We arrived more than two hours before the game, yet the streets were full of exuberant fans. Almost all were wearing jerseys, jackets, hats, mitts or other paraphernalia defying description. Many had their hair and beards dyed and/or their faces painted. The scene resembled pictures I remember seeing in National Geographic as a child.
Once inside the stadium I struggled to understand why people would pay exorbitant amounts of money to purchase seats and then stand for three hours. The corresponding struggle was their choice effectively mandated we stand if we wanted to see anything.
I had heard about the noise level, so came with ear protection. It did little to soften the unimaginable decibel level of 70,000 screaming, and I mean screaming, fans.
The experience was a lot of fun, but left me with much to ponder.
All that hype and expense was expended for nothing more than a game (and not even a championship game). As I process the experience, I want to exercise caution so as not to fall into the camp that criticizes any expenditure other than food and housing with the claim the money and energy could be put to better use. That claim is almost always true, but it’s apples and oranges.
To quote Jesus after a grateful woman poured perfume on his feet and the religious critics claimed the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor, “There will always be poor among you to help.” Cancelling the football game or selling the perfume will not solve the problem of poverty.
Rather, my processing of the event is at a different level. It forces me to wonder which projects, causes or ideals incite a level of passion in me that is even a fraction of the passion I observed in the rabid Seahawks fans. For what would I stand and cheer for three hours? Often when I officiate a memorial service, I ask the family members, “What made your loved one either excessively happy or raging mad?”
What do I care so deeply about that no one would dare get in my way as I support it?
When I study the life of Jesus there is evidence He became livid whenever He encountered abuse of the helpless or defenseless, especially if it took place in the name of religion. St. Paul was intolerant of those using religion to enslave people who had been set free by the forgiveness of God. In a different context, representatives of God are frequently pictured in the Scriptures, endorsing individuals like David who would demonstrate enormous faith to tackle giants like Goliath.
Much closer to home this weekend is the recognition that numerous men and women were prepared to sacrifice absolutely everything for the freedoms we enjoy. To them and their loved ones we extend our deepest gratitude.
It seems that the ability to discern when and for what purpose one should expend maximum energy is a mark of significant maturity.
I’m not sure the NFL has ever considered it, but the privilege of attending one of their games has given this preacher a lot to think about that has nothing whatsoever to do with football.
Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church and Chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets and RCMP.