(I posted video of this one on Facebook! And I honestly, if anyone ever asks for an example of my preaching, I think I’ll send them this:
I really like sports. I do. I used to love playing sports, but have had to essentially retire from my not in anyway professional sports career because of injuries. As I’ve aged and matured and not been able to play anymore, I find myself more intrigued by the strategy of team building. I appreciate the skills required to coach a team, but I’m more interested in the general managing of a team.
How do you actually put a team and system together in order to be successful?
This weekend is a high holy day for arm-chair general managers like me – this weekend is the NFL Draft. I haven’t heard of most of the players taken after round 2 of the draft (it’s 3 days and 7 rounds long). But I watch anyway.
It’s also really fun to look back after a season or two, and see which picks worked well, which flopped spectacularly, and which ones were amazing, but no one saw coming.
And of course, there’s the drama. There’s the drama of what will happen and when and why, and sometimes, like this year, the drama is more fun and interesting than anything available on Netflix.
So, here’s the scenario for those of you who aren’t as glued to the draft as I am: There’s a football team in Phoenix, the Arizona Cardinals. Last year the Cardinals drafted a quarterback with the 10th overall pick in the draft, Josh Rosen. But the team, was simply not good. They were very not good. They fired their entire coaching staff, and hired a new one. And have the first pick in this year’s draft.
The new coaching staff said they loved Josh. That Josh fit with what they wanted to do, that Josh was their quarterback.
But the new head coach of the Cardinals, he had been trying to recruit a young quarterback to play for him for years, a guy named Kyler Murray. Now Kyler is pretty short for a football player, he’s only 5’10, and was also drafted to play professional baseball.
Kyler won the Heisman trophy this year. Kyler is a very good quarterback. An incredible athlete. And potentially the best possible fit for the offense the new coach, Cliff, wants to run.
So the drama leading up to the draft became: will the Cardinals take Kyler or stick with Josh, and if they take Kyler, what do they do with Josh?
Thursday night rolls around, and the Cardinals had the first pick. They chose Kyler, and on Friday traded Josh to the Miami Dolphins.
And now the drama becomes: who will be better? Which team made the better decision? Will Josh be good in Miami? Will Kyler be good in Arizona? Will either of them not suck?
We don’t know! And it’s only by looking back that we’ll be able to assess if the right decisions were made! And who made them!
We’ll use hindsight to look back over the draft. Only in hindsight will we judge what we would’ve done in that situation. Who we would’ve picked. Whose side we would be on.
Hindsight. But our hindsight in situations that we weren’t actually in tends to be a bit skewed.
Sticking with football, look at Tom Brady. A truly great quarterback. He was picked 199th in the NFL draft. We can claim we would’ve chosen him higher, but we’d be wrong. Very skilled professionals and amateurs alike didn’t think he’d amount to much.
We were wrong.
Today I want to talk about hindsight. I’d like to do so because the reading from Acts and the Gospel both made me think about how we tend to look back at things and decide who we would believed & what we would’ve done with modern eyes and with 2,000 years of storytelling.
We have 2,000 years of calling the Apostles heroes for preaching when they were told not to. We have 2,000 years of calling Thomas “doubting Thomas” because he could not believe that something impossible had happened without proof.
We have 2,000 years of being told who was right & whose side we should be on.
But honestly, I have always been on Thomas’s side of this story. I can’t blame him. I would have done the same thing in his position. And, AND!!! Everyone else, saw Jesus or had an angel tell them what was going on. The others had already gotten proof of the impossible thing. Not Thomas though. And so he gets called doubting Thomas because he wants the same proof the others got.
But I digress. I actually want to talk about what’s going on in Acts.
In Acts, a group of Apostles have been teaching and preaching in the Temple in Jerusalem, against the direct orders of the ruling religious elites, this time the Sadducees. It’s important to remember one thing: the Sadducees were the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem. They were tied to Jerusalem. The Pharisees were spread around. This is why after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the Sadducees disappeared. But the Pharisees kept on.
But back to the Apostles. With hindsight and 2,000 years of hero making, we look back on these Apostles as being so brave! Following the call of Christ, emboldened by the angels!
We skip that they were rabble rousers, breaking the law, social outcasts who people would not be publicly associated with. They stood up for what they believed in. They made a scene. The government tried to shut them down.
They were beaten – that’s actually how this stories ends, they were flogged – and almost all of the Apostles would eventually be executed by the state.
Today, when someone behaves like this, we cast them aside as being wrong, rabble rousers, our for their own needs over the common good.
The most immediate modern corollary that comes to my mind is the Black Lives Matter movement. They are challenging the status quo, and being criticized from many sides. An immediate narrative of “All lives matter” popped up in response; the protestors now being beaten, arrested, persecuted, discredited, and killed.
Or the water protectors at Standing Rock. Those who stood on the side of the planet and their beliefs, even while being discredited, disparaged, lied about and to, beaten, killed, and ultimately ignored completely.
Or the #MeToo movement.
I feel very confident that history will be on the side of the Black Lives Matter protestors, those who stood up at Standing Rock, those who vulnerably and bravely declare #metoo. Just as history will be on the side of all those who stood up on the side of love, to abolish slavery, for civil rights, for the right to worship Jesus.
But this is my projection. I’ve made my selections. I’m on the side of love, the side of equality, the side of trying to save what is left of this beautiful but complicated planet that we all call home.
I made my choices based on my research, my understanding, my struggle to understand what my God is calling me to do and who God calls me to be.
Perhaps you understand differently. If you do, that’s ok. I just ask you to have a firm understanding of where you get that belief from. Is it a belief that you came to on your own based on studying scripture and learning about Christ? Or is it something someone in a position of power told you? Someone with their own agenda?
Said as a person with an agenda, right? My agenda as a priest is to challenge people to believe things not because society tells them to. And these two readings show me how important it is to believe things on your own. And if you believe, be willing to risk everything for it.
Be willing to risk your reputation and becoming a 2 century long joke, like Thomas. Be willing to risk alienating everyone, being jailed, beaten, killed, for doing what God calls you to do.
We are to believe with all our hearts, and with all our minds, and all our strength.
There’s good news though! If we take an honest look and realize that we were not exactly where we are called to be, God will forgive us and help us start over.
It’s kinda like what the Cardinals did in this draft: we have something that works, but maybe there’s something that just fits better.
If so, if we and we believe enough to make the change, even though it’s risky, and even though it costs us something – time, pride, money – then we need to make a change. Because if the risk pays off, it would be worth any price.
The question is: are we brave enough to bet everything on God, or would we rather bet on ourselves?