Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mitt, Tim, and Jesus

This morning the radio played a clip from a recent press conference held by a presidential candidate. The candidate's wife explained how her husband had nearly decided not to run for office. Together they had discussed how draining a campaign would be, how they would encounter negative publicity, how their personal lives would be under scrutiny and they might get dragged through the mud. At that point her husband thought perhaps he should not run for president. But, said his wife, she looked him in the eye and asked him: "Mitt, can you save America?" When I heard that remark I gasped aloud and said "oh my God!" "Oh my God!" I said again and again, shocked that anyone would suggest such a thing.

What hubris! [Hubris - extreme haughtiness, excessive pride or arrogance.] What incredible, inexcusable hubris - especially for someone who worships God. God saves, and God alone. Human beings work, serve, lead, support, critique, inquire, respond, listen, advise, and work some more. But no human being, no candidate for office, no president has the ability to "save America." Is this what we think now? If so, we will always be disappointed because that expectation is simply wrong.

On Sunday Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards in the Bronco's playoff win over Pittsburg. Tebow-mania, already rampant, has intensified as fans say his passing yards are a sign from God. They interpret 316 [passing yards] as a message from God, linking it to John 3:16 (a wonderful passage from the Bible about our salvation in Jesus Christ). Is this a miracle? Sports commentators did not expect Denver to win much, have not expected Tebow to succeed as a quarterback, yet he's done well and now has even won a playoff game. Is God speaking through Tim Tebow? God might speak through Tebow - in the same way that God speaks through other human beings - but not because the quarterback registered 316 yards in passing. God speaks to us in scripture, in sacred music, in prayer and meditation - not in football statistics.

I am increasingly puzzled by my fellow Americans, many of whom claim that ours is a "Christian nation." [My Dad taught me long ago that this is neither true nor possible. One becomes a Christian through baptism and you cannot baptize a nation.] How can people who worship one God ("Hear O Israel, the LORD is God, the LORD alone." Deuteronomy 6:4) not take offense at anyone who asserts (or whose wife asserts) that he can save America? How can serious Christians think God is speaking to them through the exploits or the statistics of a football player? God does speak to us, all the time, in scripture, in issues and events that challenge us, in our neighbor who needs us or the one who annoys us.

Maybe this is what we get when nearly every aspect of our lives is defined as a commodity, when our most holy days (holidays) are celebrated by gluttonous spending, when we measure our worth in terms of our wealth, our self-esteem in terms of our appearance. Maybe this is what happens. We begin to believe that a president can "save" us from our problems; we expect television shows to bring us messages from heaven; we worship Tim Tebow instead of worshipping Jesus. Maybe we've lost our minds - or just our common sense.

If you want to be saved, turn to God. God is waiting to receive you with joy. If you want to hear a message from God, pray, attend weekly worship, read scripture. Watching football is great - but it's just football. Let presidents be presidents (the job is hard enough without anyone expecting them to be the Messiah). Let Jesus be Jesus and let Tim Tebow be a guy who loves Jesus and plays quarterback.

Pastor Kris Franke Hill

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