Nothing but Net

For 14 straight seasons, the Kansas Jayhawks won or shared the Big Twelve season title. That means that freshmen at KU probably have no memory of when the team last did not at least tie for the championship. That’s amazing. But this year, they were merely good, finishing third. They got bumped from the NCAA tournament in the second round and no one was shocked. You see, just because it’s a KU basketball team  does not mean that it will be a contender for the national championship.

As we proceed through Psalm 118:24, it’s time to get God into the picture. You see, this isn’t just “the day.” Even though it is every hour of every day that we’re talking about, there’s more to be said about it. What day is? Or, more to the point, what is special about this day? The Lord made it.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.–Psalm 118:24

Yes, the Lord made every day just like the Lord made every human being. Does that make every day and every human being special? Well . . . yes. Yes it does.

After my father retired, he and my mother ran an antique business, buying various items and then driving them around the country to weekend shows where they met a lot of people and sold them stuff.

Toward the end of the business, they were dealing in some exceptionally nice art glass. I remember helping out at an auction that they hosted. My job was to line up the lots so that the auctioneer wouldn’t have to hunt for them when the time came. I brought one vase, about eighteen inches tall, up to the front. A few minutes later I heard it gaveled as sold at just north of $30,000. What on earth can make a hunk of glass worth $30,000? Like a great deal of what they sold, what made it valuable was who had made it. If it was made by the Louis C. Tiffany company, then it was automatically a big deal. If it was signed Tiffany, then it was an even bigger deal.

I learned to appreciate the work of these glass makers, but I also recognize that the source of a piece of work, while it might matter in the marketplace, does not guarantee that it will be a beautiful work any more than a player putting on a Jayhawks uniform becoming automatically successful.

That’s not how it is when God makes the day. God’s handiwork is good, until sin corrupts it. God’s day will be the best day that could possibly exist given the circumstances. Tiffany glass might be ugly. A Faulkner novel might be tedious. A Da Vinci painting might be lifeless. A Chipotle burrito might be less than delicious. Yes, but God’s day will be a day worth living, a swished three-pointer.

 

Home Team–1 John 5:19

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.–1 John 5:19

Last night, the Boston Celtics won their seventeenth NBA championship, going in a single season from one of the poorest teams in the league to the pinnacle of success. I’ve been a Celtics fan since the days of Larry Bird. Last night’s win struck me as especially sweet since it came at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers, a team I have never liked, especially since their star, Kobe Bryant, showed himself to be–how shall I say it–something less than a role model for the world.

As the Celtics mugged each other on the floor of their arena and thousands upon thousands of Boston fans fell into utter pandemonium, my mind found itself fixed on a singular image: Kobe Bryant making his way off the floor, to where he could disappear into the locker room and lick his wounds. As much as Kobe irritates me, my sympathy went out to the guy as he bore the heckling and hilarity of the Celtic faithful.

We’ve all had those moments when we recognize ourselves to be in unfamiliar and unfriendly territory. A couple of years back, Southwest Airlines made an entire ad campaign out of this idea.

As children of God, we dwell away from home, in territory familiar but decidedly unfriendly. When I find myself fitting in to the present situation, like a Laker comfortable in the Celtics home, then something must be wrong. The day will come when I leave this place, when I walk off the court for the last time. That day will come, but when I leave the court, I do not intend to stroll off in defeat like Kobe Bryant. I will be a champion, heading home to a rousing welcome from the home fans.

Buzzer Beater–1 John 5:6

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.–1 John 5:6

As I write this, the NBA Finals are about to get started. Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers will be squaring off against Paul Pierce (formerly of the University of Kansas) and the Boston Celtics. By the time you see these words the series should be about half over, but it’s all a mystery to me.

I’m not a big fan of professional basketball. When guys, especially the big stars, get to take six and a half steps with the ball in their hands as they slash to the basket, it just doesn’t seem much like Dr. Naismith’s game. However, you cannot deny the history and tradition behind the Celtics-Lakes match ups. This is the pair of teams that has met more often than any other in the history of the championship, pitting Celtics like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird against Lakers like Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

In basketball, as in most any sport, there are good players and then there are special players, players who seem to always bring their A-game in the biggest situation. All of the guys mentioned in that last paragraph were cut from that cloth. I remember an enormous game in which Larry Bird–not the tallest, fastest, or shiftiest guy to ever lace up sneakers–came down in absolute crunch time, set up outside the three-point line and let fly. And what did he do then? The moment the ball left his hand, he broke for the defensive end of the floor, absolutely knowing that ball had to go in. Is Kobe that kind of player? Pierce? Time has yet to tell if either or both of them is truly special or just very, very good.

As special as special athletes might be, they are, after all, just humans. Tiger Woods, Bjorn Borg, George Brett, Wayne Gretzky–these are all just men. Cut them and they’ll bleed–before they knock you down for cutting them. They’re good enough for the hall of fame in sport, but they’re not good enough for what John is talking about in the current passage.

John has been calling us to a radical life of love, a life that, if not lived in the service of a truly special, truly divine figure, will just wind up with us feeling cheated and abused. Let’s face it–there’s a lot of truth to the old saying that “No good deed goes unpunished.” If we were living a life of love for a mere mortal, we’d be in deep water, but we’re not. Jesus stands as someone unique, someone born of water and blood, a part of the Godhead testified by another part of the Godhead.

Don’t you know that when the game is on the line and things look grim, the average players look to the special players for something miraculous? If they can do that, often finding a reward, how much more should we, as the average teammates of Jesus Christ, rely on him for that buzzer-beating score?