Getting to know Corvallis was lots of fun last summer. There were people to meet, and activities to take in: the band concerts on Tuesday nights, The Farmer’s Markets, Red White & Blue Days, DaVinci Days, plays in the park, and much, much, more. In fact there was so much to do this summer, we couldn’t do it all.
Yet, all summer long people kept saying, “Just wait until football starts!” Well football has started this fall with a kick deep into the opposing end of Corvallis culture. While OSU is always a part of Corvallis, the excitement of PAC 10 fall sports has transformed this quiet summer town, with a cacophony of new sounds and celebrations, into a place unlike anything else we have seen to date. People are coming from all over the state and beyond. The streets fill up with cars. Parties go on until all hours of the morning. While other people, not involved with the games, go out of their way to avoid inadvertently getting caught in the crush of the game festivities.
Football is like a religious experience in many ways. There is a liturgy, beginning with a gathering rite in the form of the pre-game tailgate party, also two halves bisected by the half-time show, some might call that the special music. All this moves on to a fellowship hour afterward called the post game tailgate. They even have previews AND announcements. The teams themselves are the denominations. The players, especially the really good ones are sometimes referred to as gods and even saviors. There are priests, called refs and coaches. Perhaps in Lutheran terms the refs are the priests of the law and the coaches the priests of the gospel. There is music, even a worship band. The cheerleaders are surely the acolytes, for the term acolyte refers to someone who accompanies or goes alongside. There are even smells and bells, and the fireworks are the candles.
The thing that is most religious-like about football is the fervency. If someone is a Beaver, there is no way that person will ever become a Duck or vice versa. That is unless their kid grows up, and to cut the apron strings, they go off to school at the other place, in which case, great soul searching is called for.
We Lutherans might learn a thing or two about our commitment from football fans. Football fans are nothing if not fervently committed to the game. Commitment is sometimes in pretty short supply in Lutheran circles. Perhaps that is because we don’t really have much commitment in the first place. Maybe our northern European leanings, shape us fundamentally away from getting too excited about any thing, not just religion. Yet, perhaps also, we are not fervent because our commitment is misplaced.
Commitment is first of all what God has pledged to us. When we were baptized, God committed Godself to our spiritual welfare. Yet even before that, God committed Godself to provide all that we need to live and survive in this world. Out of great love for us and with all God’s parental goodness and mercy, God decided to be on our side.
Commitment is, second, also that response from us when we apprehend and acknowledge God’s commitment. Properly made, it is a commitment to God. Those who commit themselves to the denomination or the local congregation or something else above God, are in danger of miss-placing their commitment. It is not wrong to be loyal to those entities, but placing them above God is nothing less than idolatry. Substituting commitment to God for anything else puts the emphasis in the wrong place
and we are sure to be disappointed, for these are human institutions that will fail us at some point.
But fervent commitment on our part, in response to God’s love and providence is well placed. It shows growth in discipleship and Christian faith. It reaches out beyond itself to help our neighbor in need and it takes all that is good about fervency and directs it to God. At its fullest, it manifests itself in praise of God’s goodness; it shows itself fully in shared joy; and in time, perpetuates and extends the celebration
of life for all.