The average salary for the players in tonight's Super Bowl: just over two million dollars. The average price for a thirty-second commercial during the game: four-and-a-half million. Hundreds of millions will be wagered through Las Vegas alone not just on who wins, but how long the national anthem will take and what color the Gatorade will be that's dumped on the winning coach. Billions will be spent on food, including just over two billion on chicken wings. Tonight is not just about an athletic contest. It's a business money-maker of mind-boggling proportion. It's about fame not just for players to entice bigger contracts from their teams and shoe sponsors, but for businesses to create that ten second jingle that you'll remember for days on end to eventually purchase their product.
Thanks be to God we're not quite as greedy or self-righteous as those who will be broadcasted all over the world tonight, but unfortunately commercialism has infiltrated the church from time to time. We feel as if we need to sell this place to consumers, to somehow convince them to buy into this ministry we call St. John's. Instead of cars or chips like will be advertised tonight, we try new websites, and different bulletin and newsletter formats. And time and time again it often doesn't work. And yet, we should shout, "Thanks be to God!" that it doesn't. We're not in this for profit or fame, just like Jesus never was. We're in this for the precious God moments that impact lives we can't quite put into words or statistics, for that matter.
For those of you who don't pay much attention to the NFL, both of the teams playing tonight at one point trailed late in games during the playoffs these last few weeks, having to overcome struggle of matchups on the field. Some would say it is a miracle that the Seattle Seahawks made it past Green Bay two weeks ago. But the truth is some of the real miracles these past few weeks have not happened inside a sports stadium, but far closer to Baroda than you may realize.
Our beloved Eleanor Maier was diagnosed with leukemia, leading doctors to conclude that she only has several weeks to live. Instead of being incredibly distraught and depressed and even angry as anyone would be perfectly entitled to react to such news, Eleanor was satisfied, in a way, proud of the life God has blessed her with: the sacred privilege to be a mother, a wife, and even to be part of this church, her extended family, so to speak.
The true miracles will never happen on football fields, not even tonight, but sometimes it happens in our own homes, including Eleanor's where her daughters remain by her side, where hospice workers, who endure some of the most intense scrutiny from patients, still manage to come in throughout the week with the slightest ray of comfort and happiness, and then that extended family from her church who come not only with tears but with laughter and the stories that make this life not about fame, but those precious God moments.
That same week when Eleanor heard her news our own Chet Nitz was taken to the hospital with a massive stroke; and because of his age, many doctors didn't have much hope he would survive through the night. But in only ten days Chet has unexpectedly moved from the ER to the ICU to the orthopedics/neurological floor and now to the level dedicated to therapy. Day by day medical reality has been proven wrong, as Chet continues to improve in ways medical professionals never thought possible all the while with his Chet-esque personality. Miracles will not happen in Arizona tonight no matter how amazing a catch or unbelievable a run. They happen through precious children of God, including even doctors who may have little confidence in what they do will pay off and yet still give all they have, or therapists who face frustration hour after hour and yet still pour out a passion that can drastically improve people's life, and hardly ever receive their due credit.
And yet along those same lines, I'm not so sure God is too concerned with getting the due credit. God is not in this miracle business for fame or profit of souls. God is ultimately concerned with the lives in those very rooms, that healing can still happen in spite of physical struggle; that hope can still emerge even in the
face of death.
Never is Jesus recorded as flaunting His abilities as it will hundreds of times tonight in a sixty minute contest. Jesus was never in this to show off; just to improve people's lives, just to bring people closer to God, just to help people see the beauty of God's grace through the simple, precious moments of people's faith coming to life, oftentimes in the darkest of circumstances. We the church are not a business. We are in this for the ministry, for the humbling service of being side-by-side each other throughout this mortal life. And we cannot thank God enough for the sacred privilege to be that church with Jesus Christ as our miraculous foundation. It was through his humble service to all of humanity on the cross that made all this possible, that we may never overlook God's holy presence in this life and beyond. And for the most humbling honor to witness those precious miracles right in front of our eyes, we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon