Friday, July 9, 2010

Pastor's Perspective - No More Vuvuzelas!


Dear Mr. Obama,

My solution to the current oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is a simple one. Melt every vuvuzela in South Africa into a heavy cap and lower over plume.

You’re welcome!

S. Kiefer
Northern California

Well, today is the big day! It’s the day when even the most nominal soccer fans will pull up a chair and adopt grass-stained terms like ‘pitch’, ‘boots’, ‘nil’ and ‘that’s a lovely ball’. Most will watch the standard popular television coverage, while conveniently assuring the Spanish coverage is one quick remote click away for the entertaining post-score “Goooooooaaaaaal!”. Likewise, sometime during the match, fathers nationwide will proudly remind their disinterested children of the time “daddy snuck one by the goalie” when he was about their age (Translation: He toe-balled a shot from point-blank range past another frightened child when the score was already out-of-hand.) Strap-on your shin guards kids, it’s the final match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup!

Growing up the grandson of an Adolf, and son of a Klaus, soccer was my earliest passion sport. Ample yellowing photos and Zapruder-quality footage evidence the fact that even while in a height-chair, soccer balls were being gently bounced off my soft-spot by happy (and slightly inebriated) German relatives. It worked! I played the sport all of my life with great pride, including high school and into my college years. My position of choice was goalkeeper. Why? I adored soccer, but I found something formidable and foul about it all – namely running! Plus, I liked wearing a different shirt than the rest of my roster mates. In the late 70’s I actually donned a London cabbie’s cap over my curly mullet (ie. ‘curllet’) while I played. I pray I’m in Heaven long before my children unearth the incriminating photos.

Admittedly, at 47 I’m a bit of a snobby soccer purist. I believe there are some nuances in the game that make Pele rumble! To me, soccer balls should still be patchy and black & white. No rings or fancy ovals – patches! Soccer cleats should only be one color – black. All other colors are an abomination – especially fluorescent tangerine sherbet. Likewise, goalkeeper shirts are supposed to be long-sleeved, and their shorts are to also be long, not Walt Frazier thigh-huggers. Lastly, from the stands, only the following four sounds are permissible: cheering, booing, whistling and singing. Horns of any type are red-card offenses! Personally, after today’s big match, I will miss those vuvuzela stadium horns like I miss a carbuncle lancing. The constant annoying droning might be an effective and more humane water-boarding alternative. After watching (listening to) my first match back on June 11, I voluntarily called the FBI and confessed my part in helping hide DB Cooper!

Okay Steve, you’re a pastor. Say something religious and profound.

Admittedly, when I hear those loud bee swarm horns, I’m soberly reminded of a challenging verse the Apostle Paul shared a long time ago – ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1). My interpretation the last month would be something like this – ‘Steve, being a local pastor, preaching well, leading a growing congregation, and writing (semi-cogent) articles for the ‘Daily Republic’ are as meaningless and annoying as a blasting vuvuzela, if you don’t genuinely love people from your heart.’

Jesus shared and modeled that dazzle doesn’t win the day. Isaiah tells us that there was nothing physically magnetic about him (53:2). He was born and grew up in relative obscurity, a labor worker’s kid. His lifestyle for majesty was meager at best. Even in death, his tomb had all the ownership of rented bowling shoes. According to our competitive contemporary high-gloss standards, there was nothing dazzling about the lamb of God. However, what set Him apart and stratospherically above was his limitless supply of unbridled unconditional love! Simply put - Nobody loved the way Jesus loved. And for those in this day and age who take his ambassadorship seriously, no other quality or standard will suffice. Jesus said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). According to Jesus, love is our undeniable family resemblance and greatest evidence of his power and presence - not the highly-spiritualized trappings of the eyes and flesh.

The prophet Burt (Bacharach) said it best, ‘What the world needs now is love sweet love.’ This is the local clarion call and focus of many ministries in Solano County starting today as they kick-off the Fairfield-Suisun Cities of Love campaign; a refreshing ecumenical endeavor to simply love and serve the community in which the Lord has kindly and divinely placed us.

In closing, the Old Testament foretold about the Messiah (Christ) that, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out..” (Isaiah 42:3). Just as in Jesus’ day, Solano County does not lack for bruised and smoldering people. Countless are bruised by hurts, habits and hang-ups – barely hanging on. Others are smoldering wicks, living in the reality of deep regret, remembering when their lives glowed with greater hope. Prophecy predicted it and Christ modeled it, by refusing to snap-off hanging reed lives and extinguishing dying ember realities. Instead, with action and effort he loved people right where they were, and changed their lives immeasurably forever.

As modern-day subjects of such a compassionate King, our mandate is to simply love people authentically with the heart and zeal of the Savior who first loved us – anything else is a droning vuvuzela powered by hot air.

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