December 6, 2018
(Click here to view the PDF of the December 6 Newsletter)
From the Pen of the Senior Pastor…
A newsletter article is a fine place for a pastor to speak with a little less discretion than what he finds appropriate for the pulpit. I think that my church family knows that football illustrations from the pulpit are not quite my forte. However, you should know that I was very aware that, last Saturday, there was a significant football game that probably made it to many pulpits in our area. With honesty, and sincerity, I don’t begrudge my ministerial brothers their football illustrations.
I have been thinking, however, about our upcoming Men’s Retreat in January in which I will be speaking about the Christian man’s heart. I’ll need to define my terms, but the subject matter of the retreat has to do with a man’s affection for his Lord and how this affection carries him through hardship, sustains him in his ordinary activities, and propels him into the future with hope and joy. Men, I hope you’ll be able to attend (January 25-26).
In my preparations, something interesting happened in the world of soccer. Here’s where I speak with a bit less discretion. Last Sunday, Everton (“The Blues”) played Liverpool (“The Reds”). Both teams are located in Liverpool. Everton FC was formed in 1878. Liverpool FC was formed in 1892. Their stadiums are about a half mile apart. On Sunday, in stoppage play, Divock Origi scored the winning goal for Liverpool. In the excitement of the moment, Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp, ran across the pitch and hugged a player in jubilation. In the world of soccer, this is outlandish behavior, a scandalous act. Jurgen Klopp had to account for himself and pay a fine of £8,000.
What’s interesting to me, however, is the justification for his egregious behavior. Klopp says, “I couldn’t avoid it.” He also pondered, “If I could describe how I felt when the goal went in, then I would have control over it. We don’t want to look for excuses but that’s how it is.” The opposing coach, Marco Silva, favorably commented that “it’s the emotion of the game…it’s a normal situation – he’s celebrating,” and he added, “It’s something you cannot stop.”
I do wonder what kind of testimony the world sees from the followers of Jesus. Perhaps we ought to at least consider that if the cosmic battle for the restoration of creation has truly been won in Jesus and if Jesus personally abides with the recipients of that victory, well, perhaps a few people ought to run out “onto the pitch” every now and then.
I think of Paul’s reflection on David in Acts 13.22 as a man after God’s own heart, evidenced not merely for his contemplative psalm-writing but by his willingness to do God’s will at any cost (citing 1 Samuel 13.14). I also think of Ephesians 1.18 where Paul says that the “eyes” of our hearts are enlightened that we may make “melody to the Lord” with our hearts (Ephesians 5.19), but only this. Those with hearts enlightened will also “walk in a manner worthy” of our calling as Christians (Ephesians 4.1). The Spirit’s work is not merely heart-energizing, but it is an internal heart-energizing that leads to an external life-energizing engagement of the world.
The uncontrollable exuberance of Jurgen Klopp may be an illustration too trite for the pulpit. However, the image of Klopp charging beyond the prescribed chalk-line of coaches and beyond the expectations of fans around the world, seems to me a captivating image to make us ponder when, if ever, the follower of Jesus carries into the world euphoric glee because of the victory that Jesus has won, for us!