Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Still Part of the Team

I really didn't think the Broncos would pull it off last weekend. After all, the Patriots are superb with halftime adjustments, and Tom Brady is so brilliant. Besides, nobody's been able to stop "Gronk." On the other side, Peyton Manning's arm clearly isn't as dependable as it used to be. I think if it was up to Manning to save the game by himself it never would have happened. Clearly, the days when he could elevate the team around him are fading. It will be fun to watch the Super Bowl in two weeks and see if he can pull it out yet one more time.

Peyton Manning reminds me of a shut-in named Percy whom I visited decades ago. Percy had heart disease, and his doctor had warned him not to lift anything heavier than a box of shoes. He was used to being an able-bodied, valued, hard-working man who could pull his own weight, and then some. Now he sat in anguish, looking out the window at his wife who struggled with the feed sacks for the four head of cattle they still owned. "I should be out there doing that," he insisted. "Instead, I'm stuck in here making her do it."

Peyton Manning reminds me of my father, an industrious guy who inherited his father's jack-of-all-trade diversity and a knack for figuring out solutions to problems just about anywhere he could. But when he was suffering from cancer he was frustrated to the point of tears: he couldn't even hold open a trash bag for me as I gathered the raked leaves.

Peyton Manning reminds me of dozens of nursing home residents who've asked me what they are still doing here when they have nothing to offer society anymore. These are people who can't dress themselves, feed themselves, or even pull themselves out of bed.

Okay, okay, Peyton certainly isn't that old, or bad off. But his losing struggle with time is what reminds me of the plight of these people. Still, the thing is, last Sunday it wasn't up to Peyton Manning to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It was up to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Football is a team sport, and so is Christianity.

In last Sunday's second reading, the apostle Paul talked about God the Father joining all believers together in the body of Christ. "If the foot says, 'because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,' that doesn't make it any less a part of the body. If the ear says, 'because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,' that doesn't make it any less a part of the body" (1 Corinthians 12:15-16).

You who are sick, disabled, elderly or shut-in are no less a part of the body of Christ just because you can no longer do the things you once could. In fact, our wise Heavenly Father has greatly blessed us by keeping you here with us. We need your wisdom, your experience. We also need your prayers -- and you who feel the most helpless and worthless have more prayer time than the rest of us. We need you.

Besides, Jesus identifies Himself in you. On His way to Calvary, Jesus was just like you, unable to carry His cross any further. So a man named Simon of Cyrene was given the chance to serve Jesus Christ by shouldering His cross for Him. And Jesus Himself promised when we do a kindness "for one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you do it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40b). No matter how low you feel in life -- even if you can't pull yourself out of bed -- you are still part of the team, still part of the body of Christ.

Peyton Manning's teammates should be a clear reminder for the rest of us Christian men. When he could no longer carry the team on his own, they stepped up to honor him. Let's not forget all those sick, home-bound, and nursing home people out there. They're part of our team, part of the body of Christ. They paved the way for us, making our congregations what they are today, through their dedication in years gone by. Now let's honor their lives of service by assisting them and their families.

Amazing. We're all headed in the same direction (if we make it that far): old age; yet, it's so easy to forget those who have already arrived. Slowly, these people fade from view and our memory, and they're left to die -- sometimes alone.

What are your thoughts on the legions of men and women out there who are still part of the team? You can share your point of view by clicking here.

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