Summary: This is a funeral sermon for a longtime and well respected Coach, who lived a great Christian witness!
Because I do some football officiating, especially as Umpire, it puts me out there in the middle of the game! When I moved to Uvalde, I first recall meeting Coach King on the Football field. I was officiating and Coach King looked at me with a bewhildered look and asked, “Are you my new preacher?”. The same thing happened with his friend, Coach Goldman, a few weeks later. One of the things I like about being a Football Umpire, is you are right out there in the middle of the game.
I’m not sure what aspect Coach enjoyed the most, but there is something about the thrill of the game. There is conditioning or training. Strategy. Sometimes even drama. “Bottom of the Seventh, three runs down, bases are loaded, Johnson is up to bat. The wind-up; the pitch; fast ball over the inside corner; swing, and a miss. Count is 1 and 0; He steps back in to bat; the Pitcher shakes off the first signal from the catcher. The wind-up; crack of the bat; fly ball to left field; is going; going; going; going… Foul ball! Drama! The thrill of the game!
There are those moments of a “contest that bring you to your feet”. (1) When I was a Junior in High school, the Girls Basketball team at my High School went to State. They stopped to practice at a gym on the way, and one of the leading players twisted her ankle. The game was intense. Even close. The girls played to win, despite the odds. They were down, and it became clear they would not win. The crowd; our schools crowd (You know the kinds) “Last one out turn out the lights” crowd rose to their feet and began cheering “We’ll be here next year; We’ll be here next year”. We of course were not; but what a moment! What integrity! What sportsmanship! I even think the other teams fans were cheering with us!
Life is really a lot like a game. Sometimes we have a game plan. Sometimes the game goes exactly as planned; Sometimes we get a storm; and we were hoping those dark clouds would just pass over. Sometimes we are standing on deck, ready to bat; and Coach calls us back into the dug out; a pinch hitter is going in. Some games go extra innings; and other games get cut short. The real thing I’ve learned in officiating, is not winning and losing, but how one plays the game. I’ve never understood at the end of the basketball game, how one team; or one teams fans can be so upset over losing. We knew at the start of the game that when the final buzzer sounds, one team would win and one team would finish second. Dr. Len Sweet says (1) “Athletes know better than most that at the end of every competition there are winners and there are loser. There are real, undeniable consequences at the end of the day.”
But the question is; how did you play the game? Win or lose, did you play to win? Paul challenges us to run the race (to play the game) as if to win the prize. To play it in such a way that no matter how it turns out, the victory will have been won. Paul also points out that the victory of a match or competition is a crown that is perishable or fleeting. What Coach hasn’t ridden the wave of success; to only have an off season or two, and then they feel more like Jesus who had ridden in with the praise of palm Sunday, but soon hears the jeers of Good Friday.
Paul sets our sights beyond the perishable crown; toward the imperishable. (1) Dr. Len Sweet notes: “By describing the olive or pin branch victory crown fitted on the head of a triumphant winner as a perishable wreath, Paul heightens the momentary nature of the athlete's glory. No matter how great a race run, it's but a passing moment. No matter how decisive the victory, the wreath is but a memory, and all that will exist of it in the future will be a few wilted, crumbling leaves. Does anyone know better than an athlete that victories are so sweet because they are so ephemeral. Paul wants his Corinthian audience to look beyond the moment. He wants them to look towards the real prize they should be focused on, the imperishable victory offered by Christ's death and resurrection. To reach this great prize, Paul asserts, will take great self-discipline, or self-control. It will take a personal commitment to living a Christ-like life, a personal goal of wearing the imperishable wreath of redemption.”
Back in December, in December 9th, 2007, Coach Mike and Linda wanted to make a recommitment to Christ. They were already believers; baptized; in the game. But something was tugging at Mike and Linda’s heart to re-affirm that relationship and claim once again that imperishable wreath that only comes in Jesus. A couple of weeks later, December 23rd, 2007, Christmas weekend, after church, his daughter, Kyley Rae King was baptized as a believer in Christ Jesus! Mike and Linda, Coach Josh and family present.