God loves a parade! The Bible is full of them – throngs of people in procession rejoicing as they journey together.
Today an estimated two million people are flocking to Center City Philadelphia to stand shoulder to shoulder and cheer for the Eagles in the wake of their historic Super Bowl win. In the freezing cold? We pray for warmth. Free beer? We pray for safety. In such great number? We pray for a peaceful, as well as joyful, sense of community.
More than a few people have asked me, with tongue in cheek, if we would sing the hymn “On Eagle’s Wings” as a worshipful expression of hometown pride and praise, because people expect the church to be Bah Humbug about secular events that draw such attention. To the contrary, I think we are called rejoice in the goodness on display in a city-wide celebration.
A church friend who took Larry and me to our first Philly’s baseball game explained to us one of the historic reasons for the wildly enthusiastic reputation of Philadelphia’s sports fans. He shared that in the melting pot of this city of immigrants that the teams were a unifying force across neighborhoods where so many different languages were spoken. Whether you were of German or Irish or Latvian or Italian descent, the sports teams became a common denominator. Despite cultural differences and various kinds of divisions to cheer on the Eagles or the Phillies brought diverse people together. So today, in the midst of a country profoundly divided – politically, economically, culturally – we come together and celebrate our fair city’s winning team.
Full transparency here: I’m not a big football fan. I grew up in ACC basketball territory and would rather watch basketball any day. But I am all about community, and I applaud the sheer goodness of diverse and varied people coming together and standing side by side with a common cause for celebration when in any other setting they might be arguing otherwise.
Lent will be here soon enough, and we’ll turn toward a more solemn procession. Today let’s give thanks for a greater sense of community and cheer on the parade.