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Dancing in the endzone…


I love football. High school, college, or professional…doesn’t matter to me. Just turn on the game and let’s watch. Speedy, powerful runners…acrobatic wide receivers, smart quarterbacks, hard-hitting defense. What’s not to like about a game that combines committee meetings and violence?

Well…maybe one thing. As much as I love the game, I despise end zone dancing and exaggerated post-play chest-thumping. Maybe it has something to do with being Lutheran. (Garrison Keillor says that Lutherans are pretty hesitant about calling attention to themselves. That’s why we make better choir members than soloists.)

Actually, I think it’s a bigger issue than denominational modesty. Our desire to celebrate ourselves and our (sometimes dubious, often mundane) accomplishments stands at odds with one of the central tenets of our Christian faith…humility.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” Paul says, “who, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death…even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

If anyone would have the right to dance in the end zone, it would be Jesus. Triple teamed by sin, death and the devil, he outruns them all and scores new life, new hope and new opportunity for each one of us. But note how he does it: not by violence or overwhelming force or some spectacular display of divine power…but by humility, by obedience to the call of God, and by trust that God’s got the situation in hand even when that’s not readily apparent.

The church (as well as individual Christians) would do well to take notice. In an age that rewards big numbers, dramatic displays and personal accomplishment, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of assuming that we’re out there doing all the heavy lifting. Well…here’s a news flash: Christians don’t save sinners. God in Christ Jesus saves sinners. Christians aren’t responsible for changes of heart and conversions to the faith. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Christians can’t legislate a new moral order for the world where we end up in charge unless, like Jesus, we’re willing to reign from a cross. And I don’t see many of our political, business and social leaders lining up to look good on wood. Yes…God can and does work through our human activity. But it is always God at work. And that leaves us precious little room for boasting, bragging and spiking the ball.

Faithful. Obedient. Humble. Tough words in the game of life and not a particularly popular strategy in this day and age. But it’s the best way to describe how we are to play the game. After all, it worked for Jesus; it’s right for us, too. Let the glory be given to the one who deserves it…the God who creates and saves and sustains us all.


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