John Calvin wrote,
“Moreover, to make God a momentary Creator, who once for all finished his work, would be cold and barren…But faith ought to penetrate more deeply, namely, having found him Creator of all, forthwith to conclude he is also everlasting Governor and Preserver — not only in that he drives the celestial frame as well as its several parts by a universal motion, but also in that he sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the least sparrow [cf. Matthew 10:29]…It would not be believable that human affairs are cared for by God unless he were the Maker of the universe, and nobody seriously believes the universe was made by God without being persuaded that he takes care of his works” (Institutes 1:16:1).
This applies also to football. Yes, football.
I do not mean to be flippant with the doctrine of Providence. I mean to say that God is certainly interested in the matter of mankind’s recreation. Let me put it another way. The Lord is concerned about His glory in every area of your life, including your expression of avocational interests. All things are directed for his glory. This includes football. It probably does not include soccer. Okay, I am joking.
This weekend there will be something that reminds me of adolescent dreams and larger-than-life gridiron heroes from our old black and white Zenith television set beaming images of a football war in the ice, mud, blood, and fog of Kansas City, Missouri.
This morning the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the most competitive divisional rivals in the National Football League are the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. I don’t want to take anything away from the Chief’s phenomenal season this year or for that matter from the Oakland Raiders of today. Yet , today’s article — and the Wall Street Journal’s focus on this weekend’s contest — reminded me of the battles of yesteryear. Those were glorious days now shrouded in the mist of football legend. The names rolloff my tongue like a veritable roll-call of football honor — The Raiders (for me, the bad guys): Darrell LaMonica, Frederick S. “Fred” Biletnikoff, Billy Cannon, Art Shell, John Madden, and “the old man,” George Blanda; The Chiefs (and, for me, the good guys): Hank Stram, Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Jan Stenerud, Marvin Upshaw, Ed Podolak, Mike Adamle, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Otis Taylor, Curley Culp, Jim Marsalis—and the list goes on. What legends! What games to remember! Behind the rivalry stats are unforgettable games. Yet, like a good sermon, sometimes one is left not with the detailed points of the sermon, but with “an impression” that one has been in the presence of something noble. For a kid in the backwoods of South Louisiana, seeing Lenny Dawson line up the Chiefs with that unique, military-like, Hank Stram-directed precision huddle, and then clap, “break” and run up to the line in perfect choreography, with the old master himself gritting his teeth, looking at the scoreboard as he paced the sidelines, pounding his open palm with the wadded-up playbook, about to burst a blood vessel in that brilliant football brain of his at any minute, was pure theater. As the inevitable late-November snow began to come down from the dreary Kansas City sky onto the black and silver, red and yellow warriors below, the stadium filled with palpable tension and that tension seeped through our Zenith black and white console! As the teams went into sudden-death overtime for a playoff birth, I went into something akin to a trance. Aunt Eva would sit with me. Often I would have to “walk it off” after it was over. Then, I would go by myself to “relive” the plays in the yard under the pecan trees with my football. This was the old AFL at its best. What a rivalry indeed!
I never knew I would one day live in Kansas City or pastor a church there (or be a pastor for that matter! I did receive a scholarship for one year to Kansas State University to study agribusiness because of my 4-H involvement, though I didn’t accept it; who would have known?). God knew. And God knows that in the midst of government shut downs, and healthcare fights, and the health crisis you are going through today, and the trials we are all facing day-to-day; things like football, ballet, zoos, fishing, knitting, hiking, chess, and the Three Stooges are remarkable blessings of common grace, also, under the Providential hand of Almighty God, that bring glory to His name, as He directs them (and we receive them rightly), graciously and mercifully, to relieve mankind of the mundane minutia and the cheerless chores of everyday living to bring quiet smiles and sometimes even cheers.
I am not sure if I will get to see the Chiefs and the Raiders, but I have already had the joy of reliving some warm memories of games gone by in days of old. That was victory enough for me today. Thank you Lord for that Providence. Only in Christ can I redeem my admiration of John Calvin and Hank Stram in one thought.