No Crying In Basketball.

Jesus wept.  —John 11:35

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So…you foul out with :36 left on the clock.  Down by 5.  You watch, helpless, as it all slips away. This is the hardest you’ve worked in your life, and it’s come down to this:  A loss.

It’s enough to make you want to cry.

And so you look around the arena for your mother.  She’s sitting over there with your family.  As your bottom lip begins to tremble, you run across the court, climbing up into the stands, and you throw your arms around your mom.

As an astonished venue looks on, you let loose with a gut wrenching sob.  WAHHHHHH!!!  All the mental and physical exhaustion you’re feeling, plus the deep disappointment at not making it to the championship comes gushing out of you in great big torrents for all to see and hear.

Oh wait.  Scratch that.  That’s not right. That’s not how we do things. It’s perfectly acceptable for 15,000 fans to scream themselves hoarse rooting for a game, but to have one player show a few tears can somehow seem uncouth.  Even embarrassing.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d be that guy burying my face in a towel.  I don’t want my anguish broadcast on TBS and around the world.  To me, painful emotions are private, intimate things.  But why?

Many people (especially men) have been raised to view showing sad emotions as a sign of weakness and a cause for embarrassment.  If you’ve sneakily brushed away tears after a sappy commercial, you may know what I’m talking about.  And I can’t tell you the number of people I see at a funeral, doing all they can to clamp down on those pesky feelings.

I wonder.  What would it take for you or I to come out of hiding and let our tears be a public statement of grief?  It would have to be for a very good reason, even more significant than losing a basketball game.

Well…it is Holy Week.  Kind of the epicenter of anguish for the Christian year.  What if we allowed ourselves to truly experience the depths of Holy Thursday or Good Friday?  What if we opened ourselves up to the brokenness of the world and the suffering of our savior?  Could we let it move us to tears?

All of our personal turning away from God.  All the pain of betrayal and denial and crucifixion and death and darkness.  Talk about a loss! This is no game–it’s the light of Christ snuffed out.  If there’s ever been a week for crying in public, isn’t this it?

Yes!  So here’s what you do.  You push your cart up and down the aisles of the grocery store, sniffing and blubbering. Every time someone asks you if you are alright, you say, “No.  Not this week,” and then tell them why.

Okay.  I’m dubious if any of us are going make that much of a scene, but I challenge you to feel something. If we can have our emotions stirred up by a basketball game, surely we can travel these last days of Lent, giving our whole hearts to Jesus.  There’s still time to discern, to reflect, and yes, to weep.  But know this…

in terms of days before Easter…

we’re down to the Final Four.

Have a Holy Week,

Mitch

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The Final Four

Ladies and Gentlemen, THE FINAL FOUR:

Conquest, War, Famine, and Plague!!!

(What, no cheering?)

Even as basketball fans around the country are rooting for their favorite team (or tearing up their brackets), could it be that out there in the near future, trapped behind seals of the Book of Life, are four horsemen waiting to unleash their punishment upon the earth?

(YIKES! If so, please let if happen after the Championship game)

The Book of Revelation devotes only a handful of verses to them, but they have intrigued and confounded believers for 2000 years. Four horsemen, one in white, one in red, one in black and one a paley green. And each of them delivering a message of judgement upon lowly sinners.

Is this a literal depiction of real events that will happen? Some Christians believe so. Is this a symbolic depiction of real events that were plaguing the world back in John’s day? Many Christians would say that.

Is this a mess of images and metaphors that don’t make any sense at all? I’ll confess, I’ve said that before.

The imagery is often violent, and epic. The symbolism is really tricky. For instance, scholars today argue over the first horse, the white one. Does that represent Christ, or the AntiChrist?

Wow. You’ve got me. But if we can’t even decide which side the white horse is playing for, how do we know who to root for?

And why pick Conquest and Famine as part of the Final Four?  What about Plague and War?

These are not the Final Four I’d have in my bracket.

I’d have the Lone Ranger and Silver. They’re a great duo.

I’d have Black Beauty, who doesn’t even need a rider.

I’d even have that War Horse from the latest Stephen Spielberg movie that I didn’t see.

And maybe Mr. Ed.

Now there’s a fun Final Four! Who’s with me?

Okay, I’m being irreverent here. But my point is valid: Why do the Final Four have to be harbingers of such destruction? Why does the world have to go out with such a terrible bang?

Perhaps, buried in all that symbolism, is an important message for us to remember: There is no room in the Kingdom of God for sin, and injustice, and greed. For us to move from our imperfect world into God’s perfect Love will not be easy for any of us.

Like a refining fire burning away our faults, moving into a world of Grace will mean letting go of our selfish desires. That might be traumatic.

I don’t know if I’m ready. How about you?

As much as I pray “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”, I may not be fully prepared for The Final Four, or any other version of complete conversion.

Perhaps that’s why John wrote Revelation. To get us prepared.

Hmm. Could be.

Regardless, let this year’s NCAA tournament serve as a strong reminder:

You may find yourself in the midst of The Final Four,

in a year when you least expected to.

Have a great week, and get ready!

Mitch