A Message from Pastor Dave
Well, the Rams defeated Bengals. I’m sorry about that Dan and Tristan and other Cincinnati Bengals fans. The Bengals, like our local cats, the Panthers, have not won a Super Bowl…yet. But Rams and Bengals are players with lives and stories. The faith stories that come out during Super Bowl week always fascinate me. An internet search can yield some Christian faith stories about current Rams/Bengals players (Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Trey Hendrickson and more) as well as past NFL players. One of the more “famous” ones: The Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000 when they were the St. Louis Rams and Kurt Warner was their QB. His life and faith movie, American Underdog, was released last year on Christmas Day. When Warner and the Rams won the big game, in his post-game interview he said: “Well, first things first, I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above. Thank you, Jesus!”
Bengals and Rams are also animals; the former are tigers/cats and the latter, male bighorn sheep. Tigers live in isolation while rams and bighorn sheep usually stick together - up to 50 adult males hang together, like a football team; and do a lot of head butting, also like football players; while female and children bighorns stick together too as family, community. Both animals can run really fast. A Bengal tiger, if it found a ram by itself, would probably attack and eat it a during the amount of time a Super Bowl halftime show takes. Rams might attack a Bengal but, they don’t eat meat. Jesus said he is the Good Shepherd and reminded us we are like sheep – in both bad and good ways.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Pastor Vern read the gospel from Luke 6 where Jesus stated Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Is that Russia? Is that the guy in the car that just cut you off in traffic? Is that someone who did something really terrible to you? Maybe it is Linc Cash. He’s a boy that was a year older than me when we were in the same first/second grade classroom. I don’t remember much except he seemed to be a big bully, a 7-year-old picking on me and my 6-year-old friends. One day during lunch he took Mark’s chips. We were sitting at the same table. Mark was little and didn’t really even seem to care about losing his chips. I grabbed the chip bag back, or tried. Linc yanked them out of my hand and smashed them in an instant with the side of his fist coming down on them. I felt a tear in my eye – out of anger. I wanted to retaliate. But I didn’t really know how to fight. But then one day a few years later I got back at my “enemy.” At least in my mind that’s what happened. The summer after 3rd grade, maybe 4th. Little league baseball. I was shortstop and Linc, on the other team, was a runner on first base. The only thing I remember about the play was that somehow, the ball was coming toward me as I was “covering” second base. I had to jump to catch the ball and Linc came sliding in. I’m not sure if was accidental or on purpose but after I jumped up, I came down from that two inch vertical, with both my knees and all my weight landing right on my enemy, on his hip and side, and somewhere my glove with the ball in it was touching him. He was out. And, the breath was knocked out of him briefly (I think). He stayed on the ground for a moment before getting up and going back to his dugout. Why do I even remember that? Years later I think about the enmity that I had for Linc. I’m aware that I was far from innocent. I don’t really know anything my enemy’s life, but I just did another internet search and sadly, found Linc’s obituary. His birthdate is Feb. 17, this Thursday again, and the same birthday as my sister Charlotte’s, but a different year. I also read that Linc died a week before Christmas in 1987, at age 23. A week before Christmas. With both his parents, two sisters, and a brother still living. Lord, have mercy.
I don’t know if, as a 6 or 8 year-old, I could do much different. But maybe, I could. Or maybe I still can. Perhaps extend an open hand of peace. Maybe say something like “Life sucks sometimes, doesn’t it. But it gets better when we face it together.” Or even, as Jesus said, to love our enemies. I think that means I’m supposed to regard you as a neighbor. Who’s your favorite baseball player? (Or some other question to begin getting to know my neighbor, and learning their story.) I’m also reminded here of Martin Luther’s explanations to the Commandments 5-10 in the Small Catechism where, in all things, we are supposed to help and support our neighbor.
Love your enemies. Yes, there are probably multiple. Jesus loved his, even me, even Linc. And I’m reminded of Jesus’ goal of ushering in a new kingdom / kin-dom. A peaceful one. Like in Isaiah chapter 11, the place where we read about Bengal living with a Ram, kinda. (verse 6 “wolf shall live with the lamb; leopard shall lie down with the kid / goat; calf and lion together, and a little child shall lead them.”) Yes, these are animals for Isaiah, but they also represent people of nations, teams, ethnicities. Isaiah prophesied this hope for all peoples, for his people and for his enemies. Hope for a peaceful world under God’s reign. And his prophecy included that little lamb/shepherd child – Jesus – shall lead them/us/me.
After the Super Bowl, I saw former enemies on the field embracing. Bengals players and Rams players - sharing congratulations, condolences, and some even praying together.