(Glendale, AZ) Just before kickoff of Super Bowl XLIX, a leading reporter sat down with Roger Goodell and an American pastor to talk about football, the big game, and God. NBCBSFOXABC was granted exclusive rights to the interview.
Reporter: Good afternoon on this beautiful Arizona day. A day like no other. All eyes are on the desert today as the Patriots play the Seahawks in the 49th Super Bowl. The game has come a long way since the very first one in L.A. featuring the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Goodell: You are exactly right. We are looking for a great game tonight with more than 120 million people watching on TV plus the 80,000 in the stands. That is more than 1/3 of the nation and many millions more around the globe that will tune in which we can’t account for. We are looking for more than 1 million tweets to be posted as well. This game is huge in every circle and with every age. Half of the viewers will be female. Adults and kids of all ages anticipate the Super Bowl all year long and watch even if their team isn’t playing. The Super Bowl is easily the biggest event of the year in America and will only keep growing as time goes on. I see a day when more than half of America is watching the SuperBowl as millions more join in world wide. This is the greatest day of the year for the NFL!
Reporter: Pastor, I guess that makes you pretty sad to hear.
Reporter: Well, because Christianity has about a nineteen-hundred and fifty year head start on the NFL, but today there will be as many people watching the Super Bowl as attending church. Not to mention that those watching the Super Bowl will display their passion more freely and more greatly than anyone typically does in a worship service. Doesn’t that bother you?
Pastor: Not really. Pastors should not feel like the Super Bowl is a competitor. Truly it is widely popular, but comparing football and the Super Bowl to Christian worship is not necessary. God loves football and the Super Bowl. In fact, he has a favorite team in the NFL.
Reporter: Really? Who?
Pastor: Come on. Isn’t it obvious? The New Orleans Saints.
Goodell: Ummm…I am going to need to investigate that statement. There is a rule somewhere about divine intervention and competitive balance. l’ll need to look into that.
Pastor: I’m just kidding about the Saints, but God isn’t upset or mad about the Super Bowl. There is nothing sinful about football or the Super Bowl. Nothing wrong with people watching TV. Nothing wrong with eating pizza, brisket, or hot wings. Nothing shameful about friends getting together to share an entertaining event that includes laughter, conversation, and sharing life.
Reporter: Well, the big game is full of big fun. No one should be mad or against that.
Pastor: God is not against most of the things that culture offers. There are a lot of good things in this world to enjoy that are truly gifts of God. His hope is that all of humanity would enjoy the life that they have been given, and pausing from work to celebrate and laugh with friends is a big part of that. In many ways you might think of the Super Bowl as a metaphor of what the Kingdom of God could look like all of the time. People at rest, enjoying creation, celebrating, laughing, being filled with the joy of being together. Life is not all about work, and faith is not all about keeping rules or looking religious. God hopes that this is the best Super Bowl ever and that everyone who watches really enjoys themselves; inspired to find more than one day a year to play and relax together.
Reporter: How about that? Well said.
Goodell: Sounds great. I’m gonna trademark that for the NFL. That will be a whole new way to market the Super Bowl.
Reporter: Great idea, Roger. Get that right out to ESPN! An endorsement from God would really help your approval rating right now.
Pastor: Wait. I didn’t finish what I was saying. God does hope that the game tonight is a great one, but he wants that for every game and every day of our lives. It isn’t just God being pro NFL. He is “pro us”. Life is a gift and is meant to be full of fun and freedom to enjoy others. If only our focus wasn’t on the game, the commercials, the food, the interweb…
Reporter: What should be the focus, if not those things?
Reporter: Are you about to preach?
Pastor: No, but I would like to draw some comparisons between Jesus and the Super Bowl that might put into context what may be real fun and what truly is real life.
Reporter: Go ahead. I will give you the last word.
Thanks. I will be as clear as I can about seeing life (and the Super Bowl) as clearly as possible. It’s all about Jesus…
Jesus is more famous than the Super Bowl, but not as celebrated.
Jesus is more meaningful than the Lombardi trophy, but not as pursued.
Jesus is more filling than all of our half time food, but is much better for us.
Jesus is more exciting than the greatest halftime show ever, but not as scandalous.
Jesus is more beautiful than Tom Brady, but not as vain or cocky.
Jesus is more dangerous than the Seattle defense, but he does not talk trash.
Jesus is worth more than the cost of all the commercials, but he is not selling anything. He is giving away grace.
Jesus is more brilliant than Bill Belichick and never bends the rules to win.
Jesus’ only kickoff occurred at a wedding in Galilee.
Jesus’ has never fumbled, but he did spill his blood.
Jesus’ only wardrobe malfunction was at the foot of the cross when his clothes were taken by soldiers.
Jesus’ actions do not require instant replay because he is always perfect.
Jesus doesn’t need to win a game to prove his value or show his greatness. All of creation cries out that he is the Messiah.
Jesus’ greatest disappointment is that like the Super Bowl many people believe that following him is “just” a game and that “the game” only comes around once a year.
Jesus isn’t interested in creating moments that entertain us, programs that meet our felt needs, evidence that proves his relevance, or techniques that test our faith. He is interested in us. Every one of us. As we are. He wants to save us from our sin and from ourselves. He wants to free us and make us whole. He wants to exchange our shame and sorrow for his grace and glory. He wants to gather us unto himself for protection, fellowship, and service. Jesus wants us to trade our false idols of entertainment and experience that last only a moment by encountering him in his fullness, so that we are changed forever. He wants us to long for the Super Life in him instead of the Super Bowl of emptiness.
Jesus loves the Super Bowl, but he loves you and me more!
February 1, 2015 – Epiphany 4 – The Epistle Reading:
Some people say, quite rightly, that idols have no actual existence, that there’s nothing to them, that there is no God other than our one God, that no matter how many of these so-called gods are named and worshiped they still don’t add up to anything but a tall story. They say—again, quite rightly—that there is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master—Jesus the Messiah—and that everything is for his sake, including us. Yes. It’s true. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6, The Message)