I wrote this post last winter on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday (February 2, 2014) but have been somewhat tardy about getting it published. Late or not, I believe it is still relevant – especially with fall football season getting started.
Today is Super Bowl Sunday. All over America people will gather around their large-screen TVs, fill their laps with snacks and watch as the two best professional football teams in America duke it out to see just who really is the best. The halftime show will be a "pull-out-all-the stops" extravaganza and the TV commercials will be true works of art, full of creativity.
One has to wonder what all this would look like to an outside observer? What conclusion would some alien anthropologist operating unseen drones from a hidden lunar base draw? Here’s a possible excerpt from his (hypothetical) report: "During the northern hemisphere’s winter the humans occupying the North American continent participate in a continent-wide religious festival centering around a gladiatorial combat-style game between two teams of fighters. These fighters have won the right, to face each other in this climax battle by defeating all their opponents in a series of lesser battles that were fought over the preceding fall season."
If we somehow got our hands on his report – and could read it – we might want to say to him, "Come on, Mr. Alien, we’re not being religious! It's just a game!" The truth is, though, our alien friend’s assessment – calling the Super Bowl religious – may be more correct and hit closer to the mark than ours. If you take a step back and look at it from a broader angle, Super Bowl mania does indeed contain a strong, even overwhelming, religious element! There is a kind of religious worship involved in this midwinter festival of ours.
Worship is part of the Super Bowl? Yes, worship. Certainly not worship of God the Creator of the universe, but worship nonetheless. It’s interesting that the Bible doesn't present us with a precise definition for worship. God simply tells us that we must worship Him – and only Him. Still, while it may not expressly define what worship is, the Bible is full of examples of what true worship looks like. Jesus spoke directly to it when he told the Samaritan woman that we must worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). When you consider the picture of worship that emerges in the Scriptures, you see an image of total focus on Him, total reliance on Him. That total focus and total reliance is accompanied by spiritual communion with Him. If that picture is true then we can't think of worship as being only what we do on Sunday morning when we sing songs and preach the word. We can't even limit our concept of worship to the blessing His presence brings us as we corporately focus on Him. Those things truly are worship, but worship as the Bible presents it, is much bigger than that. Worship is a lifestyle we live out, punctuated with our corporate gatherings as a church. So, in reaching for a definition of worship, I would put it this way: Worship is a total focus on communion with God, whether expressed in times set aside for that purpose or in a lifestyle centered on Him. Everyone is a worshiper, but not everyone is a worshiper of God. If you are interested in determining just what kind of worshiper you are, you must consider your lifestyle. If our alien observer could watch, in detail, your life and routines, what one factor would stand out as a definition of who you are? What does your life focus on? Would he see true worship of God or would he see something else?
I started this post talking about Super Bowl mania and how the zeal and fervor surrounding that game has strong, religious overtones. We Christians watching it would do well to consider if we are really just enjoying a good game. Have we let our focus drift? Have we made it into something else, something that takes us away from God? Are we dissipating our worship on something trivial? If so, then maybe a lifestyle change is in order.