March 22, 2020 | John Ring
The day ESPN came live on television was the day I was happier than a bee finding a newly bloomed flower. Sports on a 24/7 basis was the goal. I don’t know if one can buy ESPN stocks but I should have if they were available. By the way, do you know what ESPN stands for? It stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Forget the entertainment. Bring on the sports.
It got better. Instead of one channel we got two, and it has grown to more than I can consider. If that wasn’t enough, they made an application for our cell phones. As a sports aficionado, an ESPN app made all the sports news possible in the palm of my hand. What more could a fan want?
Have you ever played fantasy baseball or football? ESPN made it all possible. This year I played fantasy hockey for the first time. Yes, I am crazy. I’ve played fantasy baseball since I was 25 years old. Once ESPN came on board, we moved from hand tally to immediate tally of statistics. When it came to fantasy football, we couldn’t wait till waiver day. For non-players, that is Tuesdays. Believe it or not I have participated in not only a hockey league, I’ve dabbled with a Professional Golfer’s Association league and NASCAR as well. Thank you ESPN. You sent us to sports nirvana.
Yesterday, I removed the app from my phone. There wasn’t even a tear in my eye. How can there be? It’s all been shut down. The NFL is trying hard to make news with outrageous trades, but, at the end of the day, no use wasting time and space. I guess they might change the acronym to EPN since there aren’t any sports. The dream was over.
So with little fanfare, I moved the ESPN app off my phone.
We all tend to be overwhelmed with our own world and oblivious to those around us. For on the day I left ESPN, I woke to a hurting world. Colleges closed first. The school systems followed. Supplies were running out at the local grocery. Restaurants closed. The world was shutting down, and behind every “closed” sign there were lives, no people, being traumatized. Little would I have thought we would face such times, and the sign on the church door read, “Closed.” The historic place of refuge was no longer an island of comfort.
I sat in stunned silence as the elders of our church voted unanimously to close down for the rest of the month. It wasn’t so much the vote that slapped my heart. It was the realization that something we never dreamed of has brought unprecedented pain to our lives. It no longer mattered that Tom Brady left the Patriots. Humbling. For now, we cannot depend upon a pastor’s sermon, a good set of worship songs, or a hearty prayer from one of the old guys. We will now have to be the church of God.
Our current national crisis will change the face of our lives. We are living a historical moment that will define the future. We can make guesses. We can have unsubstantiated opinions. We can deny, complain and try to make some deals (3 of the stages of grief), but, in the end we are not in control.
The interesting thing is not only are we not in control, government and science aren’t in control either. We are watching all our smart investment plans go up in smoke. We are watching government officials throw darts at a dartboard, and they are coming nowhere near a bullseye. The great savior science has struck out. The only thing they can do on this one is “lower the curve.” What does that leave? God.
How is this going to work if we can’t go to church? We are about to find out that church is not just Sunday. Preachers have been saying this for years, but then they catered to the ones who show up on Sunday. The church that will impact our world now is not the ones behind the podium. It will be the ones who sit in the pews.
I see signs that the church is not dead in the water. Younger families are volunteering to go on grocery runs, pharmacy pickups, and general care for those in the “danger zone,” the elderly and compromised by chronic and past health issues. While our president asked for groups of no more than 10 to meet, I see people reaching across the fence inviting their neighbor to share in the limited community settings before us. I see technology being used for something more than a bad, out-of-context Bible verse transmitter. For now, we can actually communicate and care and still honor the President’s request. I see people actually caring for others in ways they never did before. And, best of all, I see the good news of Jesus Christ having a place in our society. Not that belief in Jesus Christ will keep anyone from getting sick or even dying. The faith in Jesus Christ is about having God with us, and we don’t have to go it alone, even when the experts tell us to isolate. Having faith in Jesus Christ also covers us if we start losing our lives to an unseen enemy. Faith is about hope, for the Apostle Peter said, “Be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have.”
My hope is not in government edicts or doctors to suddenly bring us back to our comfort zone. My hope is in Christ who says, “I will never leave you.” We must walk through these dark valleys of death. However, I know, hear me clearly, I know, live or die, I put my trust in the Lord. Why? Everyone else has failed, and He rose from the dead. Enough said.
Meanwhile, we pray. We pray for our Lord to change the heart of stubborn man and humbly call upon Him. We pray for those who are sick and dying that they can place their hope in Jesus who has gone before us. We pray that he would grant great grace and get us through to the other side. I call upon the One who is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Who do you call upon?