There’s been a lot of fuss recently in our state. Turns out Brett Favre decided to come out of retirement to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
If you know anything about professional football, you know that the Vikings are the arch-rivals of Brett Favre’s former team, the Green Bay Packers. This has caused quite the stir in these parts.
And there have been some other interesting events around here too. Last month the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gave individual synods and congregations the possibility to make up their own minds about installing openly gay pastors in their pulpits. Not only that, we can share the table with the Methodists, which means I can sing with gusto the hymns about sanctification from my mom’s Methodist tradition. And so, of course, it is to be expected that there has been a lot of discussion about God’s will, both in terms of football, and the state of the big-C church.
There is no good reason that Brett Favre should come out of retirement, cross the river, switch loyalties and play for the purple and gold. For Brett Favre, it’s not a Sunday afternoon if you’re not in fierce competition on some turf. Meanwhile, most pastors I know spend Sunday afternoon taking a nap after convincing someone to make them a sandwich.
And so I was relieved to hear from my friend Laurie Larson Caesar that the tone of the ELCA Convention was more Sunday sandwich than gridiron gridlock. The discussion was kind and sober. She wrote, “Four years ago at our churchwide assembly, we had picketers on both sides. This year, there were tears and celebrations after the big votes, but the assembly process was much more like a symphony in A minor than an upbeat marching band or a funeral march. During plenary and debate, we would stop to pray every twenty minutes, often led by one up front but sometimes joining hands with those in the other line going toward the mikes and praying together. We listened deeply to one another and pledged to follow Paul in his urgings in Galatians to ‘bear one another’s burdens.'” In other words, Laurie told us, the church, all of us, played together well.
Which seems exactly right. The church is not like pro sports: we do not crush one another, we do not try to hit the other as hard as we can, there are no trophies to hand out. And boy-oh-boy, though I wish there was, there is no Super Bowl at the end with matching shirts and overpriced beer and Buffalo wings.
Being in the church is not a game. There are no winners or losers; it’s one big team. That also means that, though it may not feel like it these days, the church will be OK. It is a wounded, broken lamb who is leading us, and will always lead. Though our shared life together will remain cruciform, our lives have been held in promise and resurrection before we were even our parents’ ideas. As a church, we will still gather around our shared vulnerabilities, our griefs, our hopes and our fears. Our voices will wind together, we will still sing and we will still weep. Sing and weep for what was, and also for what is to come.
And we will get up Sunday mornings, and we will gather. We, all of us, will follow this wounded one. God has and always will take care of the big stuff, stuff that is beyond our control, stuff that really scares us: sin and death and evil. Though it hardly seems like much at all, there is the cross, there is the resurrection. The work is done. God has won in God’s foolish way, already.
We, then, are freed, to be. To eat all the little, sinewy, cheap wings we can, to drink canned beer if we so choose, to wear ugly over-sized jerseys, to cheer and stomp our feet and wonder where summer goes. To love Brett Favre, to love our neighbor. To be human, merely human, together.