Page last updated



The Superbowl and God's Blessings

by HW in HI

based on Matthew 5:1-12

Good morning! Today is Super Bowl Sunday.... Well, the Super Bowl doesn’t start in Hawaii until 1:18 in the afternoon, or about 5 hours from now.

I’m not a big football fan, but I’m married to one, so I know just a little bit about it. I know that the game is in Miami. I know that Denver and Atlanta are playing. And I know there’s going to be a loser. In this world there are always losers.

Winners and losers. In our country, we’re pretty big on winners. Winners are the people that get elected, the people who get promotions, the students that get into college, the people who drive the expensive cars, live in the fancy houses --- and the guys who win the Superbowl.

It’s hard to imagine a world without winners and losers. Some members of my generation tried that for awhile. There were communes where people lived together, and all their money went into one big pot. But they learned what the European settlers learned in this country 300 years ago: somebody always gets greedy.

There’s a difference between winning and being greedy, isn’t there? I want to suggest today that there is a huge difference.

A young man wants to get married. He’s worked extremely hard in life and done amazingly well financially. He chooses an exotic location. No problem, not really. It’s not exactly feeding the hungry, it may be a bit of conspicuous consumption, but it’s not quite greedy, yet. He and his bride make many arrangements for the big day. And in fact they reserve an entire island. (This may sound familiar.) They buy up all the airplane tickets to that island. When a reporter manages to get on that island, they try to get the local police to arrest him. Well, is the groom a winner or is he greedy?

My daughter gave me a book to read recently, it’s called Warriors Don’t Cry, by Melba Patillo Beals. Anyone know what it’s about? (The autobiography of a year in the life of a woman who was one of the “Little Rock Nine” who integrated Central High in 1957.) Melba wrote, this about day five of the school year, “My days inside Central High were now graded by the severity of the pain I endured. Two huge boys...had begun a full-time mission of making my days miserable. Each morning they stood in front of my homeroom door to greet me... ‘Good morning, nigger – aren’t y’all gonna talk some of that coon jab you speak?’ .... they followed me from class to class, walking up close, stomping my heels and littering my trail with flying objects, punches and degrading catcalls.” She tells a story of understanding herself to have been on God’s battlefield, a warrior for justice. The physical and emotional abuse she and the other eight black students endured was unbelievable. In a very real sense, they were winners in the end. But I would hardly say they were greedy!

Jesus emerged victorious from the cross, and no doubt he won. Still, there was nothing greedy about it.

It is hard for Christians to go through life not trying to win. If you apply for a job and you don’t want to win, your family won’t have a roof over their heads. There seem to be a couple of things going on here – how you go about winning, and what it is you’re after. Both the means and the ends.

Jesus was after our salvation, and he went about it gently but firmly. Melba Patillo Beals just wanted an education, and she went after it politely but firmly. Our friend with the dream wedding on a tropical island was after a fancy social affair, and so far as I know, there wasn’t even a touch of humility involved.

That’s a key word, humility. The thesaurus gives us a number of similar words: meekness, demureness, modesty, lowliness—not exactly American ideals. But that’s God, calling us to see things a little differently. Or maybe even a lot differently.

Today’s Gospel from Matthew gives us the beatitudes. That name comes from the Latin for blessed. Some people call them the “be-attitudes” – as they point us to a way of being.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Those who have taken what they wanted in this life will have to sit back a bit in the next, and enjoy watching those who were meek or timid take over.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Perhaps he was talking about people like Mrs. Beals who asked only for a chance.

And, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Think of Jimmy Carter, pretty humble as ex-presidents go, scurrying around to meet with warring parties, to bring them to the peace table.

And, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” About four years ago in Richmond California an angry six year old broke into a neighbor’s house to steal toys, but wound up beating their baby. That baby has permanent irreversible brain damage. The whole of Northern California was up in arms. The boy was taken from his mother and put in lock up. Psychologists said he was beyond help. People wanted him locked up for life. But the parents of that baby were Christians with a deep faith and they said, “We forgive him. We will not file charges.” That is an example of extreme mercy. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are those who mourn. At one time or another, that includes just about all of us. We will be comforted.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Those who have no faith. Those whose spirits are crushed. Those who don’t know God. Blessed are all those we love and would like to share God with, but for some reason or other, we just can’t share God with them. Well, they are blessed. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Where does this leave us with the Super Bowl, you ask? Good question. The beatitudes are for them as well. At this point in time, some players are probably mourning someone they love. Perhaps some players are feeling pretty meek. And they all want righteousness, so long as it is on their side. They’ve worked hard to be succeed. One team will make it and one will not. But the bottom line is, they will be blessed if they do God’s will, no matter who wins.