Playing for the Front of Your Jersey

            The morning after Villanova Men’s Basketball team won the national championship I was listening to Dick Vitale, a college basketball commentator, talk about the game. Actually, I turned down the radio as Dickie V’s foghorn voice rattled my eardrums and the windows of my car. Dick Vitale can only speak in CAPITAL LETTERS. When asked what he thought about the game itself, Dick Vitale boomed, “IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL GAME! YOU COULDN’T ASK FOR MORE!” But it was passing comment about the Villanova team that has stayed with me long after my hearing returned. Of the Villanova players, Dickie V said, “THEY WERE PLAYING FOR THE FRONT OF THEIR JERSEYS NOT THE BACKS!!!” The back of an athletic jersey features the name of the player, while the front displays the name of the school or team. Dick Vitale was saying, in so many vociferous words, VILLANOA PLAYED LIKE THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO PLAY, BABY!!!

            Using a lower case voice the Apostle Paul told the church in Philippi, “In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves.  Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.(Philippians 2: 3, 4)  Keep playing for the front of your jersey that is for the well-being and good of the church and not for yourself and the back of your jersey.

            This is not easy, folks. I like playing for the back of jersey because I really like it when I get what I want and when things go my way, preferably as easily and quickly as possible. I don’t like have to put others first. I had my chance to play for the right side of my jersey this past Saturday.

            Bailey Pruner and I drove four boys from our Confirmation and Commissioning Class to Pocono Plateau in Cresco, Pennsylvania through the rain last Saturday. We spent our morning doing team-building exercises. Our group did a fantastic (or as Dick Vitale might declare          

FANTASTIC!!) job working as a group. In the afternoon we all put on our harnesses and helmets and one by one, climbed up a ladder twenty feet to totter alone through four high rope elements. No one else felt like being the first one to go, so I volunteered. You see, I’ve been doing these rope courses way longer than our kids have been alive. I wanted to show them that their Old Pastor could still make his way around on the high ropes. I was kicking it up there, skipping from one challenge to the next. No problem! I wish you could have seen me: playing like a pro for the back of my jersey, SPENCER. Then, I hit the last high element.

“Don’t be interested in only in your life but but care about the lives of others too.”

            For the last element I had to walk along a cable, twenty feet above the earth. For support I could cling to ropes or “vines” that were hanging down from a higher cable. I shuffled along for about five feet clinging to one vine before having to reach for another. The goal was to climb along 25-feet of cable, touch a tree then scoot back to the middle where I would be let down. I found this cable to be highly unstable. It was hard going for me. I was unbalanced and eventually I had to ask to be let down about ten feet from finishing. I didn’t make it.

            Now it was time to play for the front of my jersey, THOMPSON MEMORIAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. I stood beneath that final element and coached the rest of our group through. I had learned a few things from my experience to pass on to my team. Everyone else made it, including the young lady who is going to be walking down the aisle in less than two weeks, Bailey Pruner. I’ll tell you this: WE WON BABY, WE WON!!