Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Doing It the Right Way

So, am I the last guy in the United States to learn that Drew Brees is a real Christian?  I add the term “real” because stardom and celebrity seem to breed a shallow, made-for-TV faith that often ultimately disappoints.  Remember Jessica Simpson?

Although I love sports and enjoy pro football, I’ve grown weary of the hype surrounding the Super Bowl.  My goodness, the build-up on Sunday alone is literally longer than the game.  But this year, I sat down about an hour or so before the kick-off, turned on the tube and was treated to the feature on Drew Brees.

In the interest of full disclosure, I still hold it against Brees for picking apart my K-State Wildcats in the 1998 Alamo Bowl.  But after watching that Super Bowl pre-game story, I’ve become a new fan.  I knew he was a great quarterback, but I absolutely love what he has done in New Orleans – not on the football field.

Generally, I don’t believe the over-hyped baloney about what pro sports do for a city.  The gaudiness of pro sports generally sickens me, though I keep watching the games.  For goodness’ sake, the NFL tried to control the use of “Who ‘Dat!”  How silly.  I live in Dallas now, and I’m still waiting for a new generation of Tom Landrys and Roger Staubachs.

But Drews Brees’ story, it’s a classic.  At least what I have seen I would say that he is being a Christian in the right way. And I’m ready to acknowledge that the Saints have helped New Orleans rebound from the awful hurricane, that the team has given this city new life and some hope.  And Drew Brees is in the big middle of it.

In case you don’t know his story, Brees had a serious shoulder injury a few years ago that could have ended his pro career.  He left the San Diego Chargers and wound up with the Saints, who decided to take a chance on a guy with lots of talent and a winner’s heart, but with a damaged passing arm.  Brees and his wife made a choice to live in the city rather than the suburbs.  If the Super Bowl pre-game segment told the truth (please, Lord, let it be so), they live in a neighborhood and are known as real neighbors.  He likewise has a foundation that pours money and resources into the community.  From appearances, then, it really looks like Drew Brees gets his responsibility as a highly-paid and high-profile athlete in a high-stakes game.  If God put him on this platform, then he’d better take this responsibility seriously.  To whom much is given, much is required.

As much as I love athletes who share their faith openly, I’m kind of tired of people sticking their fingers in the air when they score a touchdown.  I kinda’ like it that Brees does not wear his faith superficially on his sleeve (even though I do like it that Tim Tebow wears his on his cheekbones, because I think Mr. Tebow is the real deal, too).  I watched a video clip on STV (“Sharing the Victory”) and Brees talked about letting his actions speak louder than his words.  I love it.  May his tribe increase.

Which goads me.  I am a man who makes his living with words.  I’d better watch myself.

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February 9, 2010 Posted by | Pop Culture, Religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living the New Creation Reality

The Thursday before Easter I presided at a funeral of a man I did not really know.  I had presided over his grandson’s funeral several years ago.  I then had his daughter’s funeral (the mother of the boy who had died).  Three years ago, he put me down as the pastor to do his funeral.

At the graveside, among the scripture readings that I used, I read these words from 1 Corinthians: “So it is with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable…Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam] so we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

Christians believe a really weird claim.  Not only did Jesus rise from the dead to live in a completely new order, a new creation, but so will his followers.  “Listen, I will tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound…and we will be changed.”  

In John 20:19ff., the text says that the disciples were gathered together in the room and the door was locked for fear of what the religious authorities might do to them and (poof?) Jesus appears among them and says “Peace be with you.”  How did Jesus get in if the door was locked?  He just appeared.  

But not as a ghost or something; not a mere apparition.  The text then says that he showed them his hands and side, as if to say, “Yep, it’s really me.”  

Christians believe some weird stuff and the resurrection is probably the weirdest.  Maybe this is why, after we have had our nice little Easter celebrations, we go back to living and acting like nothing is different.  

I do it.  I sometimes refer to myself, somewhat disparagingly, as a “professional  Christian.”  In other words, it’s my job to pray (especially publicly at ceremonial gatherings) and to help lead a religious community in various ways.  It’s my job to have some kind of answer when spiritual or religious questions arise.  It’s my job to oversee certain ceremonies at certain times in people’s lives and deaths.  And I get paid to do these things.  I’m a professional Christian.  It’s easy, after Easter, to settle back into “normal.”  

But if am I a true believer, I can’t settle back into “normal.”  Am I a true believer?  When I say those words over the grave, words about rersurrection to new life, do I believe them?  

I do.  Still, sometimes I wonder, because belief in the resurrection is weird.  Sometimes I ask myself, “Do I really believe it?”  I do.  And I know that it’s weird.  

Therefore, I (we) do not have the luxury to live as if there is no new creation.  If I (we) believe in the resurrection of Jesus and that his resurrection is the first fruits of the New Creation, then today, tomorrow, and every day – then right now – we live in the New Creation.

As my Dad used to say, “I don’t understand all I know about this matter.”  The resurrection hope is just weird.  But I believe it.  And I want to see it and live it, daily.  

May Paul’s words set the course for us: “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord [in the New Creation reality] your labor is not in vain.”  May we followers of Jesus demonstrate by our lives the New Creation reality.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Christian Spirituality, Pop Culture, Religion, The Church | , , , , , | 2 Comments