SUPERBOWL SABBATH

superbowl xlviiiSuper Bowl XLVIII was ready to tee up a Spiritual challenge that most people did not even realize. After all the excitement and disappointment of Super Bowl XLVIII (depending on which team you were rooting for) comes a time to reflect on what might have been.

About one and a half weeks before February 2, weather forecasters were concerned about a significant weather pattern that could dump inches of snow on the Meadowlands, New Jersey site of the Super Bowl right at game time, potentially shutting out the game. Fans wouldn’t make it through the snow-clogged roads, hotels would have cancellations, airlines would stop flights, the stadium could have awful conditions for a game, and the whole entertainment industry that is disguised as a sport in the NFL would take as great a hit as a top-flight NFL corner back going after a wide receiver in mid-field that just pulled in a completed pass.

But the NFL had some plays in their game book for just such a scenario. Contingency plans were announced that the game might be switched from the traditional Sunday time slot, to a Friday date, a Saturday date or even to a Monday date. All during the preceding week, continuously updated weather forecasts were closely monitored by the NFL to see if the big game would be changed.

Imagine what might have happened if the Super Bowl XLVIII date was moved from the traditional Sunday time slot to a Saturday time slot. For most of the sports and entertainment world, it would have become, at most, a minor event. It would still be the weekend. No employers would have to worry about their employees calling en masse to report sick on, say, a Friday or a Monday. Television coverage would still be high. Hotels would still have rooms on a weekend when business travelers were not booking. No problem, right?

Super Bowl Sabbath. How would a Seventh-day Adventist Christian respond? Especially when the sports-entertainment industry holds such a large place in the American male psyche. If Super Bowl Sabbath was the option this Super Bowl 48, what would have been your call on the field of life?

Some Christians are challenged when it comes to sporting events and the Sabbath. There is such a draw, such devotion to their team, such a following of the ups and downs, such enthusiasm for the fortunes and for their own bragging rights as fans, that a favorite sport, even on Sabbath, becomes a huge temptation. Some would be likely to give in and watch the Super Bowl with the thought, well, it only comes once a year, and this year is an exception, and I just can’t miss all the excitement. Besides, it might be Payton Manning’s final Super Bowl – or – Russell Wilson and his teammates are such good Christians and I want to see them win and then give God the glory during the victor’s interview on national television. Others would say, well, let’s just record the event that is being played on Sabbath and watch it later.

What would you do?

Where is my allegiance? Is it to being totally sold-out to the Creator, Redeemer and soon-coming Savior? Or would I sell out to a multi-billion industry that lives on and for commercial marketing?

In the game of life, Who has my allegiance?

Super Bowl Sabbath would be a true test of our complete dedication to God, and that we have “No other gods before me.” That there is no idol in our life. That every strong hold has been pulled down and only the Lord of Peace reigns in our life. To unplug during the Sabbath hours is the greatest blessing God can give us in this hectic, obsessed, driven world. For when we unplug on the Sabbath, it is not just to “empty” our life, but actually to fill it with the calm of Heaven and the presence of the Divine Himself, fellowshipping with us in ways we can never comprehend while we are wired, captivated and swirling with the hundreds of bits of input coming at us every regular day.

I would suggest that even if a Christian was to forego watching the Super Bowl live on Super Bowl Sabbath, that to record the Super Bowl on Sabbath for later watching, might be worth foregoing also. If we need that sport so much, that we would be willing for athletes to play it on the Sabbath, for stadium workers to punch the clock and work on the Sabbath, for television corporations to spend hundreds of employees salaries to work on the Sabbath, for commercials to provide for the programming on the Sabbath, that we would record it during God’s Sabbath, to watch it after the Sabbath, maybe we would still be evading the true spirit of the Sabbath. We could actually “break the Sabbath” on a later day!

When I first started ministry in Elizabethtown, KY, I was blessed to have a semi-retired, wise, older gentleman in my church, who had just joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church a year or so before I got there. A wonderful new Seventh-day Adventist with the wisdom and maturity of life, and a solid sense of integrity. I valued his observations on life and his counsel when I asked him for it, and his support when I didn’t ask for counsel. Video cassette recorders were new then, and we were talking one day about a great Louisville Cardinals basketball game that was coming up. All the basketball fans in Kentucky that weren’t University of Kentucky Wildcat fans, were University of Louisville Cardinals fans. And the Cardinals had a great team that year. The nationally ranked Cardinals had a big game coming up against one of the national powerhouses of college basketball. And the game would be on Saturday. So we were talking and I wondered how he might feel about it, since he was a new member and a Cardinals fan. I discovered right away, that when Forrest decided that Christ had called him to become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, he had become infected with a greater love then his love for Louisville Cardinals basketball. The decision had already been made with his commitment to Christ at his baptism. He had no plans or desires to watch a Saturday or Friday night game. His vote was in, his die was cast, his choice was made, his priorities were set. So I asked him, “Well, what about taping it on a VCR? You could always watch it later?” This wise, old man didn’t take more than a second to reply (And remember, he was the NEW Adventist!). “Well,” he said, “I might as well watch it on Sabbath live, if I was going to do that.”

Here was a man who truly understood that principle is more important than passion, when it comes to a life dedicated to God. He looked beyond the mere letter keeping of the law, to the full intent of a life immersed in pleasing his Master, and a life that needed the presence of the Eternal more than it needed the passion of a fading sport.

Super Bowl Sabbath as a possibility came and went here in 2014. But what else is there that beckons you and me to place something, anything, higher than devotion to our Redeemer?

I’m still a football fan, but really, I am a fanatic for the “home” team. After all, as a Christian, I join the Apostle Paul in saying, “For our citizenship is heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20 NKJV). So my “home team” gets my complete allegiance every time.

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