Some of the Psalms are Psalms of Assent. They are songs for the road when you are on a holy pilgrimage. It is especially helpful to think of Psalm 133 that way.
At least twice a year the fathers and sons would make their way from wherever they lived to the temple in Jerusalem. (Deuteronomy 16:16) This is a song for brothers together on the road. Can you hear the deep men’s voices as they sing and stride up toward the Holy City? Can you imagine the hearts of the sons and fathers knit together in the Lord as the sons observed their father’s enthusiasm and devotion to the things of the Lord? There would have been a sacrifice of time and money to make a pilgrimage like that. That would become a cherished tradition.
When you think of it I am reminded of the fervor approaching religious devotion with which some men approach outdoor sports or “tail-gateing.” Is the devotion to sports so common in our culture sometimes a misplaced way of expressing the eternal urges and impulses written by God on the heart of every man? Maybe a holy pilgrimage is one of the ways that God designed to fulfill the heart of a man.
There are certainly elements of religious fervor evident in football fans. I have listed some of them from my own experience and observation:
We are inspired by the devotion and exertion of others
We are stirred by rousing music
We are thrilled by the thousands of others expressing themselves all together without reservation
We are united against a common enemy
We delight in the fellowship of a common loyalty
We venerate those who are valiant in the cause with a veneration akin to worship
We have regular times of devotion
We have times of feasting (tail-gating) and times of fasting. (Wrestlers making weight)
We have days that are set aside especially for this religious devotion to sport.
We make sacrifices
We wear “holy garments” that express our loyalty to our deity
And we participate in “holy” pilgrimages
At least five generations of Pierpont men have been fairly avid fans (read FANatic) of Ohio State University football. I have been able to observe the near religious devotion of some of the fans. My earliest memories were of working with my dad on a Sabbath, I mean Saturday, morning and listening with rapt attention to the exploits of our team together. I remember the passion my dad had for the team the antics that made us all laugh and the routine that took over especially as the season neared it’s climax when the fine young men of Ohio were pitted against the evil interlopers from Michigan.
One Saturday morning in November of 1987 my oldest son Kyle and I became the first of five generations of Pierpont Buckeyes ever to make the pilgrimage to the “holy city” for “worship”.
When you think about the modern obsession with sports from hunting to hockey, from football to fishing, and from Soccer to Cycling, the analogy is almost impossible to miss. I read an article this year in Runner’s World in which a secular writer seriously stated that running is religion to thousands. This was not tongue-in-cheek. We live in an increasingly spiritual culture. We need to be careful to distinguish the spirits.
Religious urges beat in the heart of every man but they can never be fully satisfied without Christ. We are created as spiritual beings and our spirits long for fulfillment and expression. Our hearts were made to worship him and we will never find our hearts delight until our hearts delight in devotion to him.
The infinitely creative creator has given us all things richly to enjoy and I believe this includes a variety of sports including team sports. I do think there are times when sports becomes, like many other things, a God-substitute. I find myself praying that God would erase from my children’s memory the times when they saw an inordinate delight and passion in me for things that have no eternal significance.
Isn’t it interesting that lately large numbers of men, under the inspiration of a football coach have dressed up like they were going to a sporting event and made their way to stadiums for huge men’s conferences? Why don’t you gather your sons and your dad and your brothers and schedule a holy pilgrimage. Don’t forget to bring your song book and plenty of good food.
That’s something to think about on a beautiful Saturday morning in October. Well, I gotta’ go …need to hang out my Buckeye flag.