Plymouth United Church of Christ

Delivered at Plymouth United Church of Christ
Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber, February 6, 2011

Epiphany 5, and also Super Bowl and Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday
Focus Scripture: Matthew 5:13-20 and Isaiah 58:1-12

Before a football game, the teams came out for the tossing of the coin. One of the quarterbacks said a prayer and crossed himself. The other quarterback saw him do that, so also said a prayer, crossed himself, and said, “Can’t help both of us.”

There’s truth in that.

A number of you mentioned seeing Barb and me on TV the other night talking about the Souper Bowl of Caring. There was a segment that didn’t make it on the air that night, and I was said it didn’t make it, but apparently it was on last night’s 6 o’clock news – a friend posted on my facebook page that it aired – so I watched the ten o’clock, but it wasn’t on. Anyway, when Barb and I were being interviewed about the Souper Bowl, the newsman tossed out a final question at me, Is it okay to pray for a Green and Gold win on Sunday?

I answered him, “Maybe not pray for victory, but pray that the athletes play to the best of their abilities, and that they enjoy it.” (WQOW article)

I would also add to pray that they play fair and with honor, that they play safely, no one is hurt, and that they accept a win with humility and a loss with dignity.

Now, we can absolutely pray for anything that’s on our mind – God’s okay with that, because we can come to God in truth and honesty about what we want and who we are. So if a win is important to you, then pray it and let God know how you are feeling. But it seems odd to me to pray for a win, because that means a prayer for someone to lose.

Jesus said to be salt and light, which doesn’t fit well with praying for someone to lose.

And besides, in a sort of, I don’t know, prideful sense, when the Packers bring home the Lombardi Trophy, I want it to be because of superior skill, not because of Divine Intervention.

I don’t want the Steelers at their press conference tomorrow saying, “Of course they won! Heaven itself opened up and the very hand of God Almighty didst oft come down and immobilize us and interfere, and the voice did taunt us with, ‘This is my team, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ How are you supposed to play when the Son himself is standing next to McCarthy and every time God interferes he shouts, ‘In your face, Pittsburgh!’”

No, I don’t want that kind of win.

Though... though it would be pretty funny to see Jesus doing that, in robe and sandals and a cheesehead (bigger than anyone else’s, of course), giggling like a schoolgirl, taunting the Steelers.

“Gosh, Jesus, this doesn’t seem like the You we read about in the Gospels.”

“Yeah, whatever—this is football, man! FOOTBALL! PACKERS! Go, team!”

And now we find ourselves on this day that is practically a holy day in Wisconsin, and probably in Pennsylvania, except, I suppose, for the Amish, a day of excitement and parties and eating and drinking to excess, the eve of national call-in-sick day, we have our Souper Bowl of Caring offering that will go to St. Francis Food Pantry, and we celebrate communion.

We have our chance to be light to the world by feeding the hungry and to eat at the feast of God’s grace and endless love, where no one is a loser, and everyone is fed.

Jesus said to be salt and light, and Isaiah tells us what being light looks like: it is to be engaged in the world that God loves by doing God’s work.

“The fast I want,” says God through Isaiah, fasting being a spiritual discipline that involved wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes and denying oneself food – it was a very individualistic kind of thing, and God is speaking out against it here: “The fast I want,” says God,
       “is to fast from the food of riches,
       fast from the food of power and injustice.
       Fast from the food of apathy toward your neighbor....
       It is to loose the bonds of injustice,
       to undo the thongs of the yoke,
       to let the oppressed go free,
       to share bread with the hungry,
       to bring the homeless poor into your homes,
       to cover the naked,
       to not hide from your kin.”

Then God delivers the payday – “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” And, Isaiah says, God will be with you. God will be with you because you will have finally joined God. Not that if you do these things God will come be with you, but that by doing these things, you are joining God and walking in the way of Jesus.

You will then be aligned with God’s way, with the way of the Kingdom.

Unlike the Super Bowl, which demands that half the country be disappointed when the game is over; and unlike us who find it so difficult not to live in a way that requires winners and losers, we can rest in the comfort that God doesn’t work in a winner-loser kind of way.

God’s way is the way of abundance.

We can share and spread and let our light shine, because there’s enough for everyone. In a win–lose situation, as that quarterback wisely noted, God can’t help everyone; when we live as though life is a win or lose proposition, then there must be losers – and that generally becomes everyone, even the ones who seem to have won, because if anyone loses, has too little, is left behind – then we are all diminished and all lose.

But in the world of the Kingdom, the world we’re called to live in, God can help everyone. And does.

And so pray not that we or someone else wins, but pray that we all play on God’s side and shine our light to the best of our ability, and have fun doing it, because, wow, what an incredible vocation it is to be asked to spread the light of Christ to the world.


(then we sang “This Little Light of Mine”)


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Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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