You probably have heard it before. If you’re a church staffer or a musician, pastor, or have spent any amount of time in and around churches, you’ve heard the analogy that Easter is like the Super Bowl. You may have been someone who cringes at said analogy because either you really hate football and it’s hold on American culture, or you really, really hate the Super Bowl and it’s hold on, well, everything, for the few weeks leading up to it.
Despite any disgust though, it works. And here’s why.
In some ways, Super Bowl is just like any given Sunday. They are still playing football. There are two teams on the field. There are officials, fans – albeit fans who shelled out sizable amounts of cash which are even more sizable than regular season cash – sometimes there are cheerleaders (not if it’s PITTSBURGH thank you very much), and sometimes there are lots and lots of commercials. Sometimes they are good commercials. Mostly they are beer.
But it’s still the same game, same rules, and same basic purpose. Someone wins, someone loses. It’s like every Sunday, except this Sunday, it’s bragging rights and a trophy. This Sunday, it’s all in. This Sunday, it’s all eyes on you.
I think about preachers who really want to bring their A game on Easter. We all know there might be visitors. My husband and I were commenting the other day on how the culture has shifted and we can’t expect as many people to feel a compulsion to attend church on Easter. Why is that? What is Easter to non/a-religious folks these days? I think the culture has created plenty of rituals to keep people away from seeking out meaning for the turn of the season – egg hunts, pictures with creepy overgrown rabbits, garden tours, and tea with white gloves on. I think that if we’re honest, holidays have nearly completely removed any religious aspects (though arguably not spiritual aspects) of yesteryear. We don’t need a church service to provide meaning and purpose any more. In a way, we can play our own football game in our backyard.
But then there’s the half time show. It’s a well documented fact that billions of viewers tune in for the commercials and the halftime show. People who never watch a whole game of football. I’d bet most of the performers don’t even watch football. But there we all are watching the spectacle and we just can’t look away.
I think it’s something about coming together. I think it’s community and oneness. I think it’s something about wanting to peek in to what everyone else is doing and not wanting to miss out. I think it’s about people re-watching their favorite commercials online the next day at work and everyone sharing a laugh about the one with the …. insert your fav here. It’s called being a witness. We all want to see something great. We all want to be part of it, to see it with our own eyes, feel it in our souls, know that something amazing has happened and it’s changed us.
And every year we think we need bigger and better just so we remember that something awesome happened. We forget the amazing feats of incredible strength and athleticism displayed at every game, week in and week out, over and over. We even go so far as to criticize the paid professionals when they mess up, because we have forgotten. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they’re perfect by any stretch, and I’m certainly only referring to what happens on the field.) We look to Super Bowl as that reminder of what’s been going on all year and we want to revel in the epic-ness of the finale, “crowning” a champion and hoisting the trophy high. And billions of people are tuning in. For whatever reason, they come. For whatever reason, they stay.
The analogy should fail here because chances are many of these people won’t come back until next Super Bowl. And maybe too often that is exactly the right analogy, sadly. But our job, the ones who are there every week, is to remember the epic-ness. To bask in the glory. To celebrate every Sunday the truth of Easter and the hope that Jesus’ death and return to life creates for all of us. And in a way we should be talking about Super Bowl all year, like sports people do. It’s the goal, it’s the finale, it tells us who is the best and who has played the hardest. More or less. So does Easter. It tells us who is King and Lord of all. It tells us just how hard it was to finish what He came to do. And it is done. And his trophy – it’s us! Oh what a thought! WE are his pearl of great price. He paid our ransom and set us free. He promises life – beginning with now, where we get to see Him start radically changing our hearts and lives, completing His good work in each of us and making all things new and beautiful. And it will end one day, oh glorious day, when He returns for good in person. What a day that will be.
But for now, we’re giving halftime shows. We’re bringing the Gospel to light every week. We’re doing our best to help each other worship in spirit and truth. We come together to point us to Jesus and to remember what He has done and what He continues to do today. So, Church, get ready. If you’re doing it right, you’ve been preparing all year and you just have to show up on the field tomorrow. Lace up. Get on your gear. And do what you were born to do. With your eyes on Jesus, you will not lose.