Summary: For the Festival of Christ the King, and in celebration of a round of studying Blackaby’s "Experiencing God". God empowers His church by cutting away barriers, supplying resources, and giving His own presence.
This morning I invite you to a football game. Thanksgiving Day wasn’t enough! I see the men grinning and I hear the women groaning. What, football, again, even at church?
But imagine this morning a very peculiar football game. On one side you have our Redskins. The Redskins of the last several games, not those imposters who showed up for the first few games. On this side you have Westbrook and Davis and Graham and Arrington and Darrell Green, fleet of foot. Talent galore, ready and raring’ to go, coached by however many Schottenheimers there are on the payroll these days. A formidable array of football talent. That’s one side.
Opposing them on the gridiron is a team you probably have never heard of before. Its players are not on NFL rosters. In fact, they don’t really play much football. They are – or were – government workers, accountants, teachers, and businessmen. If they ever played football at all, and it was on the pickup playing fields of some sandlot, not in the splendor of a stadium. This opposition team is the Takoma Park Baptist Church Pickup Team. And it doesn’t look at all impressive. Its front line looks pretty fragile except for three or four Cosbys that look as though they might stop something. But the rest of the linesmen look fragile – some are sick, some are too old, some are too young, some are more accustomed to pushing pens across paper than pigskins across playing fields. What a motley crew!
In the backfield, well, let’s see. How about Hairston and Mitchell and Townshend and Timmons? Read the numbers on their jerseys: 78, 80, 84. Are those their jersey numbers or their ages?! Now we need a quarterback: how about General Deloatch – he ought to know how to command a team! Although the capacity to command men in battle is not quite the same thing as the ability to mastermind the game. And then there’s the coach, that sorry coach. Wrapped in a robe, adjusting his glasses, and always looking desperately in the playbook to find a game plan that just might work! What do we expect from him? Not too much, I’m afraid.
But here we are, and it’s close to the end of the game. Miraculously, and nobody knows quite how it happened, the game is close. The Redskins, of course, are ahead, but not by as much as you might have thought. Professionals that they are, they look strong, even though they have not yet overwhelmed the church team. Everybody knows that all they have to do is turn on the steam, and it will be over. No problem.
But the church team does have the ball, and it’s fourth down, with only seconds left to play. The only way they can win the game is to keep possession of the ball. If the enemy has it, they can win in a heartbeat. What shall we do? We’ll have to try an onside kick. An onside kick means we have to kick the ball away, just enough to be within the rules, but close enough that our guys can run and get it before theirs do. We need a kicker – let’s see, how about the Assistant Pastor? She can kick the ball, because that’s what we do with Assistant Pastors: we give them the jobs nobody else wants to do! (You say there are no girls on football teams? Hey, every fall Lucy holds the ball for Charley Brown!). So let the Assistant Pastor kick; the ball bounces down the field, and we go racing after it, hoping to get there first …
I’m going to leave the outcome to your imagination. I’m just going to leave you in suspense. That might guarantee that you won’t go to sleep during the rest of this message!
In the long and tortured course of human history, how often it seems that might makes right and that the victory goes to the rich and the powerful! How clear it seems to be that right is forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne! We who are the church, how can we stand against everything thrown against us? Caesar and his legions centuries ago, barbarians in the Dark Ages, Muslims in the Middle Ages, fascists and Nazis and Communists in our own age – who are we against all of that? It would seem impossible that we could take the field and survive.
And yet here we are. And not just those of us in this room, but millions around the world, gathering in churches from tiny grass huts to immense cathedrals. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ has not only survived, but even thinks it is going to win the battle against wealth, power, and the arrogance of evil!