Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NFL Contracts and Exodus 18-35

I've been reading through Exodus for about a month now. I would say I'm being intentional about digesting it slowly, but the truth is I'm a really slow reader and since I'm not up against a deadline, I'm taking my sweet time. Despite this snail's pace not being intentional, it has allowed me to notice something that I think is important...but more on that later.

With the NFL draft occurring last weekend, I've been inundated with talk about NFL teams and hopes/expectations for the future. I mostly ignore all this talk because it always seems to be nothing more than talk. And most of it sounds like just variations on the same theme: we're excited about (prospect's name), (veteran's name) is healthy, and (star player's name) has been working hard and is much improved. But one set of comments caught my attention. Not because it's anything new or unexpected, but because of what I'd been reading and noticing in Exodus.

The comment came from Jerry Jones, the owner and general manager of the Cowboys. More or less, Jones said that he hopes that after receiving a new contract, Tony Romo (QB) will spend "Peyton Manning-like" hours at work. The hours he's expecting are Monday-Saturday 7AM-6PM. I'll save you the math: 66hours/week. It's unclear if this is the expected schedule during the season too, but if it is, add at least around another 8 hour day to that on Sundays for game day. Potentially a 74 hour work week. These two numbers are both significantly higher than the traditional 40 hour work week of a 9-5, Monday-Friday. Here's where I'm getting all this info: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/28/jerry-jones-wants-tony-romo-to-work-like-peyton-manning/
All of this work, according to Jones, is in the name of having "more success." I find this sad because I know Tony is a human (not a machine) and because I know Romo is a relatively new father. However, what saddens me more is that I don't think this work schedule is terribly exceptional. I'm sure there are plenty of people that work 65+ hours a week on a regular basis. And I find that sad. Why? Let's go back to Exodus. 

In my reading through Exodus I noticed that something kept coming up in God's speaking to Moses and Moses speaking to Israel: the law of observing Sabbath. I counted at least 5 separate times it was mentioned between Exodus 18-35. My realization was that the Sabbath is important to God and therefore it was important for Israel.

I know that the expectations laid out for Tony Romo aren't really anything crazy in professional sports. It's probably not all too far from the schedule for NCAA athletes if you count their dual responsibilities of student & athlete. And as I said, I'm sure there are plenty of non-athletes that work just as much if not more. But that's exactly what I hate/fear. Ridiculous hours are becoming more and more common. Whether we're just trying to get by, or trying to be better than the next person, we're forgetting how to rest...all in hopes of experiencing "more success." People overwork themselves and then wonder why they've come to hate their jobs...even if at one point it was a "dream job."

I hope we can recover the regular practice of Sabbath. I hope we can challenge and reject this push to work more and more and more. I hope that our lives don't become completely defined by or consumed with our work. I hope we can start to say "no" to ridiculous hours so that we can say yes to other things. I hope that we can start to enjoy some recreation.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fight or Flight

"Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women,"
Acts 5:12-14

I'm about to enter my third and final year at Duke Divinity. In the past 700 or so days, I've learned that this whole thing I've gotten into is a lot more difficult than I had expected. Yes, I've struggled with my own personal problems of faith and living during my time at Duke, but I think the thing that is most daunting is imagining what is to come when I leave the confines of the divinity school...

As graduation is less than a year away now, I'm starting to get questions about what I'm going to do when I am finished. This is a tough question to answer, but one that needs to be asked nonetheless. I'm aware of how much I've changed in the past two years, and how that has changed the way I will serve when the time comes (hopefully not too long after May 2012). I wonder about my ability to serve in a way that I understand to be faithful, loving, and formative. Honestly, the thought of doing all that scares me because I'm not sure I can or will.

This may sound a little odd. Wouldn't that be the goal of all clergy/church staff? I should certainly hope so. But my concern is in really doing those things as I understand them...in all situations and contexts. It could cause problems. And I'm afraid it's just going to be too hard. This clip from A League of Their Own captures what I'm feeling:
http://youtu.be/ndL7y0MIRE4 [fair warning: there's a 4-letter word]

The passage above immediately follows the story of Ananias and Sapphira... a story that suggests to me how serious this whole following Christ thing is. People were in awe of the apostles, and hesitated to join in the ranks, never mind count themselves among the apostles- the leaders of the church. And so I feel even more hesitant. Overwhelmed. Unprepared.

But I find hope in the words of Jimmy (Tom Hanks) when I apply them to my understanding of my vocation, or job. Ministry is what gets inside me. It lights me up. It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it (again, the Acts passage). The hard is what makes it great.

So I'll keep moving, even when it seems too daunting a task. Your move, friends.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Unexpected Company

Yesterday I preached at my field education placement church. As I made announcements before the service, I noticed a familiar face, but I couldn't quite place the face. During the greeting time/passing the peace the familiar face made his way to me. He asked, "So you're the student intern this summer?" I answered, "Yes I am." He replied, "Nice to meet you, I'm ___ _______." Immediately I realized that this was a pastor of one of the 10 largest UMC churches in the US, that I've participated in studies using his curricula in the past. He explained that he was on vacation and that he worshiped with this congregation when he was in the area. We exchanged pleasantries and then worship resumed.

"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’" Genesis 28:16

During the next few minutes, I felt my nerves start to work on me. How could I, a seminary student that has yet to take the required preaching course to graduate, offer a sermon that could be worth speaking to someone of his experience? After I allowed my mind to race a little bit, I realized the text I was preaching on: Jacob's encounter with God. I also remembered one of the thoughts I'd had during the week of preparation that made it into my sermon: "...we ought to be awed...when we encounter God breaking in to our reality."

My mind started to shift from the VIP in the second row to the fact that I was failing to be awed by the presence of God in worship because of this person's presence. I was allowing myself to be nervous about speaking to a congregation including him, instead of being nervous about the fact that I was speaking about God. I felt foolish, but also comforted. I feel the sermon went well, especially after I had a moment of conviction for myself.

I ought to be more awed by the time I spend with scripture. It's presence and words should be allowed to make me feel uncomfortable and inadequate. But I, like Jacob, can trust in God's promise to "be with" me. (Gen. 28: 15; Matthew 28: 20)