March Madness

Sports is a multi-billion dollar business in this society. It reflects our fascination with the ideas of achievement, dedication, and excellence. All of that is good for a society.

Until it isn’t.

Recently the discussion has been renewed to start paying college athletes. Major universities in this country make millions of dollars from their sports programs and there has always been something of a underground economy for “boosters” at different schools to provide “perks” for the best athletes to get them to come to their schools. When that much money is at stake, usually, anything goes.

Another fact that illustrates this challenge; a survey a few years ago found that the greatest contributor of the decline in Sunday morning church attendance was (wait for it) juvenile sporting events!

As usual, the polluting of good things is the regular path of our deepest weaknesses.

In our Scripture Lesson today, we continue the wisdom of exploring and valuing and learning from the First Testament. Please be a wise follower of Christ and regularly read the wisdom of the centuries in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Our Lesson comes from Genesis 6:9-22. Here Moses recounts for us the story of Noah and his family, and Noah’s call by God to preserve God’s creation in the midst of God’s work in redeeming His creation from the sicknesses of our own brokenness.

You know the story well. In fact, Hollywood recently released a movie called “Noah.” So, I won’t bore you with the recitation of the basics. But look with me to verse 22 in Genesis chapter 6: “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”

The willingness to obey, even when the whole world is going another direction has always been the hallmark characteristic of the truly faithful. Faithfulness is “easy” when everyone around you is being faithful too. But what happens when everyone else, even your own family, is going a different path? Then it becomes almost impossible to break the stranglehold of fear, that fear of being “different,” standing out and being marked as a “fanatic” or a “party pooper.”

So what is the path to being faithful during the hard times? It starts with your internal vision. It starts with a regular examination of your own priorities. It starts with the foundational reality of “who” you are. It starts with moving from mere lip service to your faith, to an actual valuing of the faith even above yourself. And that ain’t easy, dear one. Anybody who tells you it is is trying to sell you something.

So, you’re going to have to work up to this place of faithfulness by regularly exercising your faith, even when it’s hard. You are going to have to hit the “spiritual” gym a lot more faithfully than you get to your local work out facility! You are going to have to exercise your will to choose well, even when the chips and cookies and cake are all sitting there on the counter with that small voice whispering “Eat only a few. It won’t hurt you.” See how the wisdom of physical health and spiritual health go hand in hand.

Today, dear one, even if you don’t “feel” like it, exercise your faith by making your sign of the cross as you pray over your meal. Exercise your faith by reading spiritually uplifting material today. Exercise your faith by venerating the icon at your home altar this morning. Stop and prioritize your faith first and watch as your spiritual faithfulness grows, gets stronger, and gives you the freedom to be faithful even when it isn’t easy!

After all, there’s no reason to allow the “madness” of the season to swallow your faith. You can learn to choose rightly for you, your children, and your community. It won’t happen by accident. It has to be done “on purpose!”

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