Monday, January 25, 2010

When the Saints go marching in....

From, “While the Saints lined up for the overtime field goal attempt, two elderly men, one black, one white...both decked out in black and gold, stood in the alleyway leading to section 313, nervously awaiting the play. As the football sailed through the uprights, the two strangers embraced, laughing, crying, jumping, shouting, lost in the unbelievable moment that had finally arrived: The Saints are in the Super Bowl. THIS year is 'next year.' Life is good.” Okay, it’s the morning after the ‘big game.’ As Jim Henderson said in his call on WWL870, “Pigs have flown, hell has frozen over, the Saints are going to the Super Bowl.” So what, you may be thinking, does this have to do with a ‘pastoral note’? I’ll get there but indulge me a few paragraphs first. What I love about the story is that it is really the story of a city, city that is first in all of the worst categories like crime, murder and corruption. New Orleans is also a city that is almost last in all of the positive categories like education, wage potential and housing. New Orleans is a city that is divided on socio-economic issues, political agendas and of course, race. Mayor Nagin’s comments after Katrina epitomized that struggle when he called New Orleans a ‘chocolate’ city. Almost everything in New Orleans divides us, almost everything, except the Saints. For a brief season every fall New Orleanians are not as much black and white as they are black and gold. As we left the Dome last night and walked down Poydras a black man put his arm out and embraced my children and me at a crosswalk simply exclaiming, “Who Dat!!!” People were dancing in the streets, hugging strangers, weeping and repeating over and over again, “I can’t believe it!” So again, what does this have to do with a ‘pastoral note’? Two words: common grace. Common grace is a theological term used to describe the ‘daily mercies’ of God that provide blessings in the little things. The term ‘common grace’ would be used to describe the joy that one would have in hearing a symphony playing in the park; the beauty of dancers performing the Nutcracker or watching excellence in sports. In the Movie Chariots of Fire the Scottsman, Eric Liddel is quoted as saying, “I know God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.” That is common grace. The joy of using gifts from God as they were designed, whether it be in athletics, music, art or any number of other fields, that is the essence of common grace. Perhaps it just may be that when elections cannot bridge racial divides, political rallies cannot bring people together and 11 o’clock on Sunday morning continues to be the most segregated hour of the week God provides the Saints, a little common grace for New Orleans. Maybe, just maybe the “Who Dat” nation might take a lesson from some of our boys in Black and Gold and when we feel his pleasure in whatever successes He lays before us, we might kneel and point heavenward moving from common grace to thanksgiving. Saints player number 83, Billy Miller posted these three simple words on his Twitter account immediately after the game, “Thank you Lord.” Indeed.

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