My father is Senior Pastor of a church located in the Holy Land. No, not Jerusalem…Green Bay, Wisconsin. When I was growing up in Green Bay, I grew accustomed to hearing my former home town described in Biblical terms, taking it all as good, tongue-in cheek fun. My father has often said that the largest church in Green Bay, Wisconsin is Lambeau Field, where the NFL Packers play, and that each Sunday 70,000 faithful followers gather to worship their gods. Sadly, there is quite a bit of truth to that notion that goes beyond sarcastic humor. Many years ago when I attended a pre-season Packer game, the music to “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” played as Brett Favre ran onto the field. I give the benefit of the doubt to the public announcer that he simply thought it was nice music and did not recognize it as a reverent hymn, but the truth is that many in Wisconsin have an exaggerated view of the Packers as the demigods of society who can do no wrong (as long as they beat Da Bears). In many ways, the Packers have the highest pull on Wisconsinite hearts as people skip church for Packers games or to tailgate at Packer games beforehand. Even among dedicated church goers there is often an obvious checking of watches to make sure that the service ends before kickoff.
But Wisconsinites are apparently not the only ones. Just this past Sunday, a pastor in California actually cut his service short so that he could watch the game. You can see the entire service (less than 1 minute) here. This website posted the video because they found it funny. I simply find it sad. Even sadder are the voices of the parishioners in the background who find the situation funny and a great blessing that they too can see kickoff. Is it any wonder why our society thinks of Christians as a joke? We have given the impression that our priorities on a Sunday are the same as everyone else: football comes first.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love football and I love to watch the Packers play. I am not an extreme Sabbattarian; but Sunday is not the Packer’s Day, it’s the LORD’s Day. The commandment clearly states to “honor the Sabbath Day.” So what are we saying to our culture, to our children, when football takes priority over the Worship of God? What does God think of our worship when it must end in time for kickoff? And it’s not simply football. We rush out of church for lunch, to beat other church’s to get a good table at the local restaurant or to get in line at the buffet, to hurry home to get a nap or to get to something else we have planned. Are we truly honoring the Sabbath Day when our priorities shift away from worshipping God? Are we truly communicating the greatness of the God we serve when we shorten the worship of Almighty God to watched overpaid men throw around the pigskin? Our actions speak louder than our words.