Most Sundays I attend the church where my husband and I are members. We are an open, affirming and accepting church which means all are invited to the table, the doors are open in extravagant welcome to any who would enter, and when we come together as a community, we try to live with the hard questions rather then settle for the easy answers. On any given Sunday the sermon challenges me to live more courageously, and to care about and work for what matters.
I love our church.
This past Sunday, it had been a long but good week, and our church is a 45 minute drive away, so God and I decided to stay home. Turning on the TV to watch a little NFL football, I discovered that I didn't have to leave home to go to church. Church came to me. Welcome to the United Church of the NFL. After reading this post I hope that you will come away challenged to live more courageously, and to care about and work for what matters.
I love the NFL
Some people will tell you that a good sermon is a 3 Point Sermon, which as you can probably guess, serves up three key points. Here are the three I received from the pulpit of the NFL.
Standing for what you believe in might mean sitting down.
Across the league teams chose to protest during the national anthem. Some sat, some kneeled, others raised fists, while still others locked arms or held hands. A few teams decided to stay in the locker room or tunnel until the anthem was over. This was not a protest against our flag or a sign of disrespect towards all who have served or are serving this beautiful, broken country of ours. It was not done in an effort to undermine the ultimate sacrifice that countless members of our military have made throughout our history. In fact, quite the opposite. The players were calling us to a higher standard for which those sacrifices were made. The were calling our entire country to a higher standard, us as individuals to a higher standard, and, they were calling the leader of this great country to a higher standard. A standard that should reflect what this country claims to stand for when we raise the American flag high in the air. The claim that all are created equal and deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not to mention deserving of respect, dignity, compassion, and for God's sake, common human decency and kindness. And since it starts at the top, our leader should lead the way, should set the highest of high standards. Unfortunately, thus far, he has not, did not, and is not. His bar has been set ever lower, as demonstrated by yet another divisive tweet from the man elected to lead our country. A tweet that demanded some kind of appropriate response from players and coaches alike. Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, as a true leader does, chose to "go high" in his response, speaking truth to power in a tweet of his own.
We don't have to agree on everything to come together for the common good.
After watching several games, numerous press conferences, and reading various commentaries, it is obvious that not everyone agreed on the approach to take regarding the national anthem. Since the Seattle Seahawks are my team (forever and ever amen) I take this second point from them. From what was shared in his Monday Press Conference Pete Carroll said that it took multiple meetings, challenging conversations, the expression of emotions that ran deep and raw, intentional listening, and ultimately, a willingness to come together for the greater good of the team. According to Coach Carroll, there were players for whom it was a painfully difficult decision to choose to stay in the locker room, and not be present on the field during the national anthem. Ultimately, what made it possible for everyone in the room to come together as a team is the same thing that is needed to bring our divided country together. Empathy. Somehow the players, found a way to extend empathy to one another, to attempt, to at least try, to walk in one another's shoes, to see life through a lens different than their own, and to entertain the possibility that the experience of one of their teammates might have something important to teach them. That is incredibly hard work to do, and it requires more strength, courage, and resilience than any football game ever will. But...If they can do it, I believe we can too. We have to.
My daughter has a favorite coffee mug, made by Oiselle -a Seattle-based by women, for women athletic apparel company. The mug is white with the following words on it:
"There is no secret. Keep going." *
This final point in the NFL sermon was brought to life during an unfortunate play late in the first half of the game between the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburg Steelers. Marcus Cooper, Cornerback for the Chicago Bears, got his hands on a blocked field goal. Ball in hand he took off at full speed, on his way to what looked like a sure touchdown. None of the Steelers were going to be able to stop him, and it appeared that he was home free. And then he just slowed down. He started his celebration before crossing over into the end zone, which gave those in pursuit time to force a fumble at the one yard line. The result, due to a penalty on the Steelers, gave the Bears just enough time for a field goal and an additional three points. It could have been seven, but the player with the ball in his hands slowed down. He didn't keep going.
Our country is in trouble, and it is going to take all of us to fix it. It isn't going to be easy. It isn't going to be quick. We have to keep pushing forward We have to keep our eye on the prize, which is a country in which the flag we raise reflects liberty and justice for all. A flag for which we are all proud to stand.
* mug no longer available for sale on Oiselle website