Everything's a sermon illustration to a preacher, and while this might not be the best exegetical work, it is what was running through my (Mike Thom's) head Sunday afternoon watching the Bombers in the Western Final.
It seemed like the bounces weren't going to go in favour of the Blue & Gold yesterday, and for some decades-long fans like me, the early bad breaks were giving me a bad feeling.
But as the knot in my stomach grew over the potential heartache coming as a fan, so did my inner dialogue with God, thinking about my faith life and the things I struggle with. As the dialogue continued, and as the Bombers continued to look at the task in front of them rather than looking to their past mistakes and letting them overcome them, a gentle (and much-needed) reminder from Jesus began speaking to me.
This is not an in-depth sermon. It's not a theological treatise. Forgive me, I'm just trying to quickly articulate an experience I had yesterday talking with Jesus and watching football, and I thought I'd share it with you in hopes that it speaks to at least one other person.
p.s. Special shout-out to all the players who had a rough day but kept pushing and responded in big ways. Like a 44-yard field goal from Marc Liegghio, and Janarian Grant who later returned a kick for a touchdown which proved to be a huge momentum swing.
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@chvn951 Everything's a sermon illustration to @reverend_thom. #winnipeg #bombers #cfl #gobombersgo #greycup ♬ original sound CHVN 95.1 FM
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers taught me something about Jesus, yesterday. And taught me about redemption through Christ. I’m a HUGE Bombers fan and have been most of my life.
I will not lie. I was nervous yesterday almost from the start of the Bombers game.
The team came out hot. They struck early with a massive touchdown in the first six plays of the game... and then … Marc Legghio missed the point after.
And I thought, uh oh …
I’ve been a Bomber fan most of my life. I’ve seen this before, I thought. I tried to tell myself, it’s ok, but I had a knot in my stomach.
And then we blocked a BC punt – A HUGE PLAY …. BUT THEN the command centre interrupts and says, actually that’s a penalty for roughing the kicker against Winnipeg. BC gets the ball back – mayhem in the stands with fans booing.
I’ve seen how this goes before, I think to myself again. I remember years when the Bombers looked so good and then seemed to beat themselves or get bad bounces which ended in heartache.
I prepared myself, and my heart, for the outcome
BUT GOOD NEWS – THE DEFENCE SHUTS BC DOWN AND THEY ARE FORCED TO KICK!
… and then the Bombers' Janarion Grant fumbled a dribbling ball on the punt and BC ends up recovering the ball right in front of their goal line.
I’ve seen how this goes before.
And then to top it off Zach Collaros throws an interception in the end zone a short time later.
Another missed point after attempt comes along for the Bombers, and not only that but it's returned to their end zone (thankfully in that scenario it's worth only two points and not six).
I’ve seen this before.
BUT … these Bombers are different.
They faced adversity, they faced tough penalty calls (that were the right call by the way, according to the rules), they faced teammates having a rough game …
But they hung on. They came together as a team, they played hard, and they won the Western Final for the third season in a row.
Some of those old Bomber teams, it seems, couldn’t shake their past. As soon as something went wrong in one game it seemed they let the weight of past mistakes overtake them and they would fall apart.
But these Bombers are different. They’re confident. They believe not only in themselves, but they believe in their teammates, and they hold others up when things go wrong. AND – they believe in their coach – they trust their coach. They keep pushing, they keep persevering. They are champions, whether they win the Grey Cup or not this Sunday. They are champions.
So what did they teach me? If you’re a theologian you might not like this exegesis so forgive me. But they taught me the importance of not letting my past get to me when I stumble and fall in my walk with Jesus.
I am a sinner.
I am a great sinner.
And I often let that weigh me down. “You’ll never change, Mike,” I tell myself when I fall. And I let that negative self-talk pull me further down into darkness and sin.
The Bible warns us of the dangers of this time and time again
AND, the Bible promises us time and time again that our past DOES NOT MATTER IN THE EYES OF GOD.
The present matters, and what we do with it matters.
In Philippians 3 Paul talks about the desire to know Christ fully, and in return, act more and more like Christ and participate in his redemptive work. Paul had one of the worst pasts of any disciple or apostle, but he looked ahead, saying in Phillipians 3:13:
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Now I better point out that Paul is talking about having the proper focus in times of suffering in Philippians 3. That is, in times of suffering, and times of hardship, turn your eyes to Jesus. Put your focus on him.
In fact, he talks a lot about that throughout the whole letter. Lots of football players probably have Philippians 4:13 as a favourite Bible verse – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Again, the context of that passage is about suffering. Paul is sitting in prison when he writes that. His past doesn’t matter, but his present does. And his circumstances, he says, will not determine his joy – that's what he's saying in Philippians 4:13.
His circumstances don’t determine his joy, and his past sins don’t weigh him down, because, again, he is a new creation in Christ.
When you place your faith in Christ, you become a new creation, too. Paul says so in 2 corinthians 5:17 -
These Bombers have put their faith in their coach and their playbook. A new way of doing things. The seasons of heartache from the past don’t matter to them. In the midst of a tough game, they set their eyes on the coach and the playbook. They pick each other up and they push forward. The outcome may not always be what they hope for, but they do everything with character, and they focus on what they’ve been called to do, and we see the results.
Your circumstances do not determine your joy when you place your faith in Christ. That doesn’t mean you can’t be frustrated, you can’t be angry, you can’t be annoyed when things go wrong or when life crashes down around you, but it does mean you can but your sights on Jesus in the midst of it, do the right thing, face your challenges with character, and not only realign yourself with Jesus, but you can point others to him at the same time.
And most importantly, your past does not matter. You are a new creation. Just because you stumble doesn’t mean everything is lost. Don’t look back – look to Jesus, and push on.
And go bombers