By the time you are reading this, we will have crowned a new NCAA champion; since the final four has not yet happened while I write, that team could be Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin, or Connecticut. Most of us are familiar with the events which will happen this weekend: Saturday night will have two games (one of which will probably be exciting and the other a little bit boring) and then Monday night’s game will have all of the pomp and circumstance due to a championship, where we will crown a winner.
Moments after the game, we will see a “One Shining Moment” montage – clearly the best part of the entire NCAA tournament – where we have an approximately 3 minute video showing us all of the memorable events from this year’s tournament. If you’re unfamiliar with these videos, go to this link and enjoy the one from 2006, which I picked because of Joakim Noah (but be careful, this is a potential wormhole of you being completely unproductive at work today as you watch every one of these which can be found on YouTube): One Shining Moment 2006.
Sorry, you’re going to have to give me a minute to gather my emotions after I watched that video.
Okay, we’re back now. I could spend all day reflecting with you on sports and the way that we can be drawn into a team of men or women and their collective effort to reach their sports’ pinnacle of success and what that feels like for them and for us. I could also talk all day about underdogs and narratives, the way that a cool story-line – say, for example, 2013’s Florida Gulf Coast team, or 2014’s Dayton team – can draw us in and make us root for a group of individuals we have no experience with or prior knowledge of. Maybe those thoughts can come later; for now, what I think we should focus on is the search for glory on earth and how that reflects God’s glory.
In sports, glory is all about finding that one shining moment, the one shining moment which might be the hoisting of a trophy, the defeat of an opponent, or the chance to, for at least a moment, rightfully claim to be the best at what you do. Whether that’s an Olympian standing on the platform receiving a medal, a 19 year old kid leading his team to an upset in the college basketball tournament, or a batter hitting a walk off home run and being greeted by his teammates at home plate, sports provide a very specific arena for those moments of glory.
At the risk of taking a turn with a cheesy and obvious segue, I feel that we must ask the question of what all this glory is for. I think it is too drastic to say that this glory is not worth noting because it is on this Earth. Each day we pray for the Lord’s Kingdom to be made manifest on this Earth, so things that happen here can be important and truly meaningful.
While the winning of the NCAA tournament will not get us to heaven (nor the perfect bracket, which is good because mine was extraordinarily bad), the chase for glory in that moment can tell us something. In basketball, as well as many other sports, a person cannot win a championship on their own. While it often takes a supreme individual effort to win (as Shabazz Napier is attempting with UConn this year), it is a matter of a team buying in together and realizing that they can only succeed if they do so as a unit.
This, my dear friends, is what is so important for our faith journey: our search for glory must not be for our own individual glory, but must be for something (more specifically, someOne) outside of ourselves.
Let me explain my thought process a little bit further. When a team wins a championship at a high level, they are interviewed by various members of the media. In this interview, they usually begin very quickly to thank people (in the Super Bowl, you can bet on who they will thank first, because of course you can), almost always including coaches and teammates, possibly after family, but often even before them.
Why is this? Some might say it’s a false humility, or it’s just what they’ve been told to do; I find my view to be a little bit more rewarding and a fair amount less cynical.
I think that athletes thank the other people who were a part of their journey to this point because they realize that their one shining moment was not simply made possible by their own effort, but by the working together of many people. This even applies in individual sports; in Golf, for example, whoever wins the Masters next weekend will certainly thank his swing coach, probably a trainer, maybe a sports psychologist, and certainly his family and friends who supported him.
In this moment of glory, the athlete’s mind is drawn outside of their specific accomplishments to the hard work and dedication of so many people which amounted in this glory; or, you could say, in this moment they realize that the glory is not their own.
And so, for us, the glory is not our own. We may have a shining moment on earth, and we may not. The deepest reality, though, is that there is a shining moment waiting for us in an eternal banquet of love and glory with our Heavenly Father. That knowledge should be enough to move us forward, always seeking His glory.
In moments of glory on earth, may we always remember that this earth is passing away and that eternity awaits, not discounting the glory we’ve been given, but always realizing that it is not our own. And, in those times when we feel that we didn’t receive the glory we deserved, may we look to our God and His Son, realizing that we were not made for this world, and that all the glory this world has to offer cannot compare with what He has in store for us.