Thursday, September 8, 2011


For professional football fans, August is typically a strange time. On the one hand, we’re bored. We’ve endured months of Sundays free of our beloved competition. We’ve memorized countless articles analyzing the prospects of our favorite teams. But by August, everything worthwhile has been said. Thrice. Thus, without actual games, we’re parched for novelty.

On the other hand, a whiff of newness arrives: training camp and preseason games. And to some, that’s very exciting. But to me and many, it’s a mirage in a desert, a stick-with-no-food at the State Fair. The games aren’t meaningful competition, just another excuse to rehash stale story lines. Aka, boredom with manufactured excitement. As I said, August is a strange time for NFL followers.

This August, however, was different. Many of us fans spent summer months arguing and analyzing, as football fans do, though it was about the NFL lockout, not the actual sport. But- glory be- that ended; the NFL opened for business. So this August, football fans had mere weeks to dream, despair and fantasize as fervently about the coming season as it usually takes us six months to accomplish. Boredom was not our challenge. Stamina for the month-long sprint was. And while that made August strange in a new way, it was refreshing.

I’ve often thought church folk have August lulls like football fans. It’s been months since our last great holiday; months until our next. Sunday School and choir took a hiatus way back in June. Friends, even the pastor, miss multiple Sundays- different ones than those we miss- so the typical ‘normal’ feels slightly askew. Some churchgoers even admit (rarely to the pastor!) that summer can feel a bit…boring. Although this August, with Baptisms, house moves, dedications and garden harvests, wasn’t as typical as many I’ve experienced.

Nevertheless, for gridiron and God fans…September has arrived! NFL competition begins in earnest September 8. Many churches plan “Rally Days” for when Sunday School activities get moving the following Sunday. The choir might even wear robes, once they reform (probably not, but their singing will be appreciated!). And it’s like the cycle has renewed, normalcy returns, plans become activities become memories and results.

And the question becomes- How has the summer prepared us? In football, the answer’s obvious. Either you strain a muscle or you don’t. Your team achieves more victories or they disappoint. Pretty quickly, the discerning fan learns whether her team’s offseason time was productive time. Whether all those dreams and arguments she’s been producing were intelligent or…wishful.

The analogy isn’t so clear for churches, though. How do you prepare spiritually for the return of the ‘Program Year’ (as some call it) or for, well, anything?! Prior to training camp, athletes lift more weights, memorize new playbooks, have corrective surgeries and the like. Christians, I guess, can read the Bible, pray at bedtime, practice compassion when neighbors in need come calling. But those are things we do whether Sunday School is meeting or not. Yes, the ‘neighbor’ in question might be at your summer cabin or on a family trip. The actions, though, don’t change; we don’t get a break from love.

But maybe there are points of relevant comparison. Taking time to rest and relax always does a body and spirit good. Also, Fall and Spring are times when churches most typically see visitors ‘checking them out.’ How we respond to these guests- with invigorated welcome or halfhearted yawns- might say something about how we’ve used the summer. SS teachers and choir directors obviously plan lessons and performances. But anyone can come to the Table with a fresh perspective or fun idea, a challenging project or prophetic thought. When folk were out doing the summer thing, maybe those weren’t as ripe for sharing. Now, though, a new season having begun, perhaps it’s time to call me up and add something to our church life together.

Whatever the case, I look forward to this new season- football, but especially church! And I hope you’re getting ready too. Plymouth Creek Sundays won’t feature the bone-crushing entertainment of our gridiron heroes, but I pray it’ll prove more exciting and …healthy over the long-term.

Grace and Peace,

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