I work really hard to keep sport analogies and illustrations out of my sermons because they are so overused. However, my friend Joe Chambers (@josephochambers and Field Notes on the Jesus Way) posted some thoughts on his Facebook page that got me thinking. If one wanted to, it would be fairly easy to preach a series of sermons based on the four football games of the NFL Wildcard Weekend.

  1. Laces Out–This sermon is from the Vikings perspective. Sometimes you do almost everything right, but things fall apart at the end. Things like character, determination, and community are what get you through the hard times.
  2. Keep Your Cool, Don’t Bungal it–The Steelers/Bengals game is the picture perfect example of losing control of your life.
  3. Wide Left–When you get what you don’t deserve, it is called grace. The real life story of the 2015 Seattle Seahawks.
  4. That Awkward Moment When . . . Racism–Sometimes culture lulls you to sleep and you find yourself forgetting to be transformed. This is what happens when we root for the team from Washington and yell out racial epithets that we don’t even think about.
  5. Frozen–The flames of hell can be frightening, but it is hard to move around when your relationships are frozen because the temperature (of the heart?) is below zero. Another possible sermon here is “Mission Trips to Minnesota in January Might Not Be A Good Idea.”
  6. Houston, We Have A Problem–The sermon, of course, is about being a poser. Some people/institutions/churches look like the real deal, but when it comes crunch time, they produce a goose egg, at home.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Steel–The Steelers may have won, but everyone saw their soul (and yes, I Remember Super Bowl XL )
  8. It’s Just A Game–Some people get too wrapped up in sports, and really need to go for a walk or read a book. Never feel sorry for people who make a living playing a game. Remember, most of those athletes on the field are people who picked on and bullied you in high school.


There you–those are free of charge to anyone who wants to use them.


Now for something I know very little about—the National Football League.  In principal I believe people have an unhealthy obsession with sports in our culture, but, what are you going to do about it?  So, in an attempt at “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” I thought I would make my predictions for this weekends NFL Conference championship games.  The winners of these two games will represent their conference in the Super Bowl. 

            AFC—Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the New York Jets

            Pittsburgh will probably win this game because the officials love Pittsburgh.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Seattle and Phoenix about their encounters with Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.  It is impossible for Pittsburgh to not win once they make the Playoffs.  For that reason, I tend to want to root for New York.  The Jets have not been to a Super Bowl since Joe Namath and the famous guarantee.  But I can’t stand their coach.  He is such the antithesis of good sportsmanship. 

            NFC—Chicago Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers

            This old school battle from the heartland of America feels right.  The Bears have a great defense and they are playing on what might be the worst field turf in the NFL.  This will offset the advantage that Green Bay has on offense.  Green Bay has a smell of Cinderella on it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t come up with the victory, even on the road.  Chicago should win, but that doesn’t mean Chicago will win.

Now, there are several X-factors for me as I think about the games.

  •  X-Factor One:  The Cheese element.  My passion for cheese tells me that I can’t root against a team whose fans are called Cheeseheads.
  •  X-Factor Two:  The NFL wants big market teams in the Super Bowl.  This means New York and Chicago will win. 
  •  X-Factor Three:  The Favre.  New York and Green Bay have ties to Brett Favre.  It would be great if both of his former teams made the Super Bowl in the year he finally retired.  This would then be labeled the “Favre Bowl.”
  •   X-Factor Four:  It all comes down to the beards.  Mark Sanchez has a great beard.  It looked kind of trimmed last week, but the week before that against Indianapolis I saw a shot of him and I had instant admiration for a man who could grow such a beard.  In the end the Fellowship of the Follicle is the deciding factor. 


Keep I mind, of course, that I will probably not watch any of it.  I want to finish watching Season Two of the original Star Trek that I got on DVD from my wife for Christmas.  Nevertheless, my Final Prediction—Jets beat Pittsburgh by a hair, Green Bay beats Chicago on a last second field goal that is “Gouda.”

******Update, Monday Morning January 24.  I was 50% accurate with Green Bay beating the Bears, but the Jets did lose to the Steelers.  But, did anyone notice the great beard Roethlisberger was sporting.  I mean, that was pretty amazing.  Let the record reflect that only bearded quarterbacks won yesterday–Aaron Rodgers had a pretty good full beard too.  The Fellowship of the Follicle will always prevail.********