Wednesday Word: Football and Church

Football officiating and church.

People have heard me talk about how intertwined these two things are for as long as I've been in ordained ministry. I was a football official long before I even considered ordination, but it wasn't long after ordination, or maybe it was during seminary, when I really began to see the similarities between the two.

Football officiating has its rules book, procedures, and mechanics. Our church has the Book of Common Prayer, rubrics, and liturgies. One rule may point to or draw from several other rules and it takes understanding each of them to understand the whole. One rubric may point to or draw from several other rubrics and it takes understanding each of them to understand the whole. Football and church have a lot in common.

Yesterday morning before going into the office I saw that the NY Mets had fired their relatively new general manager for sending many inappropriate and unsolicited texts to a female reporter in 2016 while he was with a different team. Yesterday afternoon I learned that Sarah Thomas, the first full-time female official in the NFL, earned a spot on this year's Super Bowl crew, making her the first woman to work an NFL championship game.

Earlier this year people marching for justice and racial equality were met with severe resistance. People who cried, “Black lives matter” were shouted down with cries of, “All lives matter” and, “Blue lives matter.” Banners proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” were torn down, desecrated, or had the word “Black” whited out. In November, a game between the LA Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first NFL game to be officiated by an all-African American crew. And I was reminded of Johnny Grier, who, in 1988, became the first African American referee in the NFL (I got to meet him once, but that's another story).

Football has its issues. So does the Church.

But at it's best, in football officiating there is no division, there is only one crew. All four, five, six, seven, or eight people on a crew work together in harmony. There is no male or female, black or white, only positions in a black and white shirt. And all of the positions work for the good of the crew.

At its best, in the Church there is no division. As Paul wrote, “In Christ there is no more Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female (and I would add, black or white), there is only one in Christ.” All of us, like a crew of officials, work our different positions for the good of the Church.

In respect to equality and unity, maybe the Church can learn something from a crew of football officials where male and female, black and white, work together seamlessly.



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