Sharing the Celebration

By Rev. Chris Jorgensen

June 20, 2021

Video of entire service: https://www.facebook.com/hanscomparkchurch/videos/990885041754520

Scripture: Galatians 3:25-29

photo of a bowling alley sign showing chris jorgensen got a 300 score

This is a photo of Chris Jorgensen’s greatest sporting achievement.

I mean, it’s not this Chris Jorgensen’s greatest achievement, but I bet it was for whatever Chris Jorgensen bowled that 300 game in Ralston a few years ago. A friend of mine saw the sign and took a picture for me – even though I’m pretty sure she knew that my highest bowling score ever was like 120. That is pretty sad because I come from a line of fairly accomplished women bowlers. My mom and her mom, my Grandma Griswold, both bowled for years in a bowling league. Grandma Griswold, in fact, was written up in the Appleton Post-Crescent, my hometown Wisconsin newspaper, for bowling her first 600-series at the age of 70.

So, given that, and the fact that it is Father’s Day this week, I was especially interested when I heard a story about bowling on “The Good News Podcast.” This story was about a real bowling dynasty. John Hinkle, Jr. of Peoria, Illinois was the son of two extraordinarily-committed bowlers. They bowled many nights a week – sometimes even sleeping at the bowling alley between leagues. With all that bowling, they were very good. John Sr. bowled games in the high 200s with regularity. Well, the apple did not fall far from the tree. John Jr. was an NCAA championship bowler.

When John Sr. died in 2016, his son memorialized him in a unique way. He had his dad’s ashes put into a special bowling ball. The first time John Jr. bowled with this new, special bowling ball, he bowled a perfect three-hundred game with it.

Here’s what John Jr. said about the end of that game, “I had tears in my eyes for the 11th and 12th frame. I couldn’t even tell you where that last ball went. I had so many tears in my eyes just throwing it. I was just hoping that it would strike, and it did.” He continued, “Dad always shot 298, 299. Never had a three-hundred. I had goosebumps. I had chills. He was there.”

Sports. There’s something about seeing and hearing stories of great sporting achievements that just get to you. In fact, I have noted, and you can tell me if I’m wrong, that sporting achievements are like the only socially acceptable event at which men are allowed to cry. Am I wrong? I’m not saying it’s a good thing. It’s just something I have observed.

But I think we can all be moved by sports. I mean, when I think of the most virulent sports fans in my experience – they were women. My aforementioned Grandma Griswold…I definitely remember her yelling at the television during those lean Don Majkowski Green Bay Packer years. When I married into the Jorgensen family, it was definitely my mother-in-law Nancy who was the biggest Husker fan in the room.

Now it’s not that sports can’t have a slightly dark side. My husband Matt shared with me that he grew up with an irrational hatred of the Iowa Hawkeyes’ coach Hayden Frye. Matt was like, “I barely knew who he was…I just knew I didn’t like him.” I felt the way about the Chicago Bears most of my life – except during a brief period of adolescent rebellion when I actually owned a Jim McMahon Chicago Bears jersey. We all go through our phases, right?

So…sports. There’s definitely a sense of us-versus-them with our sports fandom, right? Doesn’t every team have some kind of arch-enemy? There can be a very provincial feeling to it. It can kind of engender hostility to those who cheer for the “other” team. Even though our rivalries should be just for fun, our allegiances can also cause divisions.

Now, there were some real concerns about division in the church at Galatia to whom Paul is writing in our scripture today. Their divisions were much more serious than Packers versus Bears. In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul is trying to eradicate these divisions. See, some missionaries had come to Galatia after Paul, and they were trying to tell the Galatians that the Gentile believers who had not been circumcised actually had to be circumcised in order to be fully in Christ, in order to be considered children of God. 

Now we’ve spoken before about how difficult a sell adult-circumcision is to people. This was not going to happen. So these missionaries were trying to create a kind of hierarchy where the circumcised believers (the Jewish believers) were real children of God, and the Greek believers (the Gentiles) were a step below.

Well, this went against everything Paul had taught them about what it meant to be in Christ. So Paul reminds them of the rather famous words we hear in today’s scripture:

28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Some interpreters think this might have been part of the baptismal blessing in the early church. The point of this blessing is that our identity in Christ makes all of our divisions irrelevant. Before these trouble-making missionaries came, the members of the church at Galatia were living this radical inclusion out already. They were gathering across tribal lines and socioeconomic lines and gender lines not just once a week, but they were breaking bread together in their houses every day.

This crossing social barriers was highly unusual in Paul’s time. But for Paul, it was absolutely essential to his mission in the world. For Paul, the fact that tribal lines, cultural lines, were being crossed was one sign that God was doing something new in the world. This crossing of lines, this breaking down of divisions…it was just a glimpse of God’s desire for divisions and barriers to be broken down between all of God’s children.

God desires that for us as well. God desires for us the ability to transcend our sense of who is in our family, of who is our community, of who makes up our team. When we are in Christ, we come to understand that we are God’s children, made in God’s image…and so is every other sacred human person in the world.

So when we are truly in Christ, we recognize that not only are we all on the same team, we are all part of the same family. And that is a great gift. Because it means that we can celebrate with anyone who celebrates – as if we are celebrating for our own children, our own grandchildren, our own team.

I have found so much joy in my Christian walk as God has broken down more and more barriers in my heart surrounding who I consider to be in my family, who I consider to be on my team. Friends, I can cheer for the Iowa Hawkeyes now because of the Smith and Waller and Zachmeyer families here at Hanscom Park. I can cheer for the Steelers because of Maurice. I can cheer for the Red Sox because of Carl and our new friend Jack we met at the Pet Blessing. I can cheer for UNO hockey because of Dale and Stephanie. Over the past four years, I have loved being able to cheer for all of those new teams as we have grown as a family together. I hope some of you have been cheering for the Packers as well…that I have become a part of your family – as much as you have become a part of mine.

Also , this summer is the Olympics. You all, I cannot wait! We are part of the Ethiopian team now. We are the home of the Ethiopian Community Association, and I have been following a 22-year-old Ethiopian woman named Letesenbet Gidey. In the past year, she broke world records for both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs. I cannot wait to celebrate with the Ethiopians when she competes in the Olympics in July.

…and speaking of running, we are part of the Kenyan team now…right, Pastor Peter? So I’ve been doing some research. Did you know that Kenyans are predicted to win five of the top six places in the men’s and women’s marathon at the Olympics? Well, as I told Peter this week, personally I only run when I’m being chased by a bear…but you know I’m going to be watching the marathon this summer!

You know I’m going to cheering for all the athletes from India and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mexico because of people who are part of our church family right here. We are all part of this amazing church and this amazing world community together, and nothing can stop us from celebrating with those who celebrate. 

That’s because whoever and wherever we are, we are all God’s family.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

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