This has been an exciting week for the people of Louisiana. The state gathered in front of our televisions Sunday night to watch one of the most exciting things that has happened in the state in a long time. There was a "buzz" all day as commentators spoke time and time again of this unlikely team that had never won much who now found itself in such a large stage.
Images of four years ago lit the screen. Water everywhere, people on rooftops, the Superdome in shambles. All seemed hopeless . . .
Little by little a team, a city, and a whole state began to rebuild. Now the team had the opportunity to prove how far from the wreckage it had come.
And they won!!!!
Even casual fans, such as myself, could not help but be proud for what this team had accomplished. The last four years have been years of rebuilding not just a team, but a city and a state. The site of people on rooftops fleeing the rising waters now became the site of celebration and joy.
Newspapers all around the state carried headlines of "answered prayers," "hallelujah," and "believe dat." All carried stories of the way that this team provided hope, healing, and inspiration. The headlines spoke in Christian terms and the stories described Christian action. The team had provided much needed good news to the people that they served! They had invested in the city: lived there, set up foundations, helped schools, and became ambassadors for the rebuilding effort. Their "faith" in what their team could do and what each of them could do was put into action.
In the midst of all the celebration and the pride I wondered about the church, had we failed to provide what the city needed most? What the state needed most?
This is not a tirade against a football team. As an adopted son of this state I am proud of this important accomplishment. I was there with all other Louisianians cheering for our team, wearing black and gold, wanting them to win. I believe that sports are important ways of entertainment and competition. They also provide much needed economic impact in the communities they serve.
I guess my real tirade is against the church. We have failed time and time again to inspire, to capture the imagination, to lift up a city and a state from the rubble of destruction and chaos. We have not taken chances: on leadership with passion, on communities of service, on important adjustments at "half time." In other words we continue to play it safe!
In the meantime people continue to gather. They gather to celebrate a victory, their victory. They also gather to feast and as they feast the hope for the future continues to build, the possibilities seem endless, the embarrassments of the past are put aside. Many were saying that they "believed again."
I also believe again . . . I believe that the church can live again, serve again, be present again! I believe that we can come out of our apathy, self-centeredness, and lukewarmness to become the people who provide hope, healing, and inspiration to the communities that we serve. People want to believe, they want to be inspired, they want to be part of something that makes a difference. Maybe if we live in such passionate ways, the good news of Jesus that we proclaim will move people who hear it, to "believe again!"
Belief and action opens up the floodgates of renewal, rebuilding, and hope. This is what the church came to proclaim to a broken world. Let the feasting begin!