God On The Court
Over the past few years I have read that the church cannot just expect people to come through its doors, rather we have to go to where the people are. We have to be able to meet our neighbors and get to know our community. Perhaps we even have to brave the wilderness to meet our life-giving God in new ways.
Last night I had one of those wilderness experiences. I was privileged to attend the Boston Celtics playoff game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I have attended many
sporting events and plenty of basketball games at a local level, yet I had never been to a professional game or to the TD Garden. It was wild! First, we had to brave the wicked storm that unleashed its power all over Connecticut and Massachusetts, to arrive at the stadium and when we did, the pulse of the arena was just getting going.
People, dressed to support their favorite team, hollered as they walked down the halls. It was like they had this primal tension within that needed to be released. People painted their faces and held up signs to express themselves. As the arena filled the excitement was palpable. All kinds of people were squished together, young and old and in between. I wondered what it would take for people to come to church with this much anticipation.
It was great fun to cheer when the ball went through the hoop. But I quickly found out that the person sitting right in front of me was not “one of us.” She was cheering for the other team. LeBron James, notably one of the best basketball players in the world, came out and put on a show for the first half. He couldn’t miss. Every time he hit a shot the woman in front of me yelled loudly and threw her arm up in the air right in front of my face. It was annoying, to say the least. All her cheering took the fun out of it for me. I am a little embarrassed to say, I quickly had fantasies about how I could accidentally spill my drink all over her. I felt like yelling back, but my son was sitting right next to me. But when you are in the wilds of a stadium the power of the culture is strong. Finally, at the end of the second quarter, when I could hardly stand it, I put my hand gently on her shoulder and asked her to watch her arm. She immediately apologized, and I found out quickly she meant no harm and was just having fun. I realized how quickly we can label someone as the “other.”
The stadium grew in intensity as the game continued. It was loud! The lights and the music made you want to move. All kinds of people danced in their seats, smiling and pulsing to the beat. I easily joined in with all the chants, “Defense!” or “Let’s go Celtics…” The spirit was alive, it was like people yearned to come together to let off some steam, to release the pressure of the day, and to celebrate with a crowd they hardly knew. We were entertained not only by incredible athletes, but also by dancers, women thrown high into the air, by an artist, and musicians. At one point they highlighted the heroes among us, which honors individuals who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others.
Fortunately for all of us gathered, the Celtics, the supposed underdogs, won their second game in the series. It was wild! People clapped, and screamed, waved towels in the air, they truly celebrated the strong finish of their favorite team.
It made me wonder, what we as a church can learn from these events that bring people together. I do believe that many of us yearn to be in community, we gain strength and comfort from being a part of the crowd. We need places and times to unleash the pent-up angst we hold inside.
This event was incredibly creative, from the graphics to the music, to the various entertainers. In what ways can we use our creativity to enhance our worship or our faith journeys?