Words from the Pastor
Fan or Follower? In 1995 the inaugural season for the Carolina Panthers franchise opened. There was a lot of hype and enthusiasm that “football had finally arrived in the Carolinas!” Even my 75-year-old uncle in Fayetteville was so enthused about the team that he bought everyone in my family a Panthers shirt (I still have mine). The expectation and excitement of the season was palpable. You could feel it almost everywhere you went. Of course you could also go places and people would answer with “who” when asked about the new football team. Here in 2016, we’re headed to Super Bowl 50 and there is a similar level of expectation and excitement about the outcome of Sunday’s game. Even our resident “Sign Lady” has been sharing her enthusiasm for the upcoming game and thousands of people who have seen her sign when they drove by the church or via electronic media have shared in her enthusiasm.
The closer we get to Sunday, when the opening kickoff will set the ball flying through the air into the arms of the receiving team the more focused the world becomes on San Francisco and the teams who will compete there. In what promises to be an incredible game, millions and millions of dollars are pouring in to make purchases for the game; media crews from around the world are making their way to San Francisco in hopes of catching just the right picture; and yes the people are pouring into the city too. Thousands upon thousands who will sit in the stadium or others who just want to be “close to the action” will flock to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. What a wonderful opportunity for our Panthers to “put it all out there” for the world to see, as they battle for the championship!
So why is Pastor telling me all this stuff about football which I already know or about which I might not even care. I’m glad you asked. In the years between 1995 and 2016, there have been some years in which the Panthers were less successful. As a matter of record, you might find some who would say “that was a dismal year for the Panther franchise.” Despite being a “dismal year,” though many of those people broken hearted by losing seasons or injuries to the team remained loyal followers and supporters of the franchise. Year in and year out they showed up and cheered the team whether they won or lost. On the other hand, there were many others who drifted away when things were not going so good for the team. In fact, when a succession of poor seasons plagued the Panthers these fans drifted further and further away, only now to find their way back with this meteoric rise to the top of our team. Sadly, this “drifting away” is descriptive of too many who drift away from their relationship with Christ. The dictionary defines fans as “enthusiastic admirers.” These fans want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires sacrifice. Fans may be fine with repeating a prayer, attending church sporadically, and even slapping a Jesus fish on their car. But is that what Jesus really wants? Scripture is clear that Jesus wasn’t interested in admirers. He wasn’t interested in fans. Jesus asked the disciples (John 6:66-71), if like all the others who had left if they too wanted to “go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
As we come into the season of Easter, this is an opportune time to ask ourselves are we “fans” or “followers?”