We come by our enthusiasm for the Green Bay Packers honestly. From 1993 to 1998 Becky and the kids and I lived on the shore of Green Bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula just an hour north of Lambeau field. As pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Menominee, I learned early to adjust church schedules and programs around Packer games, especially home games. My cooperation was rewarded with more than a few tickets to games at Lambeau. Yes, sacred ground. Yes, the frozen tundra.
Our time in the Frozen North saw the Packers in two Super Bowls and champions in one. Brett Favre. Reggie White. Those were the days. In many ways, though, it wasn’t the Super Bowl win against the Patriots or the disappointing loss to the Broncos that caused the most joy or sorrow in Titletown. We saved our intensity for the Dallas Cowboys who had the audacity to call themselves “America’s Team.” Counting the regular season and the playoffs, the Packers and the Cowboys would play eight games in our five years in the U.P.
The joke was told too often to be funny, and it went something like this. John Madden is in Dallas to call a Cowboys game when he notices a red phone near the Cowboys’ bench. He asks Coach Barry Switzer about the phone and Switzer tells him it’s their hotline to heaven. “Try it if you like,” Switzer tells Madden, “but it will cost you $500.” The very next week Madden is at Lambeau Field to call the Packers game. He notices the same sort of red phone near the Packers’ bench, so he asks Mike Holmgren about the phone. “It’s our hotline to heaven,” the coach tells him. “Try it if you like, but it will cost you a quarter.” “Twenty five cents,” Madden exclaims. “In Dallas it’s $500! Why the difference?” “Here it’s a local call,” Holmgren explains.
Ha ha. And funny or not, you have to be old enough to know about local and long distance calls to even get the joke.
Well, why not? If the Dallas Cowboys can be America’s team, which they are not, why can’t the Green Bay Packers be God’s team? Which they are not.
By the way, Wikipedia lists the Packers’ all-time win-loss record as of last weekend as .5694 and the Cowboys’ as .5688. Surely there is a point to be proven. God’s team, for sure.
Of course, despite the prayers of our Sunday School kids in Menominee, Michigan, God is not a partisan. The great theologian Aaron Rodgers has said, “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome (of a football game). He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”
God is not a big football fan nor is he much of a patriot. Nations get a bit more press in the Bible than football teams, but it is not altogether positive PR. “Why do the nations rage, and their kings take counsel against the Lord,” the Psalmist asks (Psalm 2:1-2).
At the end of all things (and the beginning of all things new), the nations no longer rage but join in praise to God, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10)
God does not bleed green and gold. Nor does he bleed red, white, and blue. But he cares about us. And about nations, inviting us and them to join the great multitude.
But as for Sunday, Go Pack Go!
The family back in the day.
Saint Andrew friends: I am teaching this class again this Sunday. Will Gandhi be in heaven? A tale of two prayers! And more. Join us Sunday at 9:00 a.m.