It happens every year. When I experience some divided loyalty between two of my passions that collide during March. Of course I am talking about Lent/Easter and the College Basketball NCAA Tourney. March Madness for church involves the color purple, Gospel readings that retell stories around the last few days of Jesus’ earthly life that include donkey riding and palm waving and curtains tearing and cross walking and tomb emptying. It’s an amazing time of the year where we experience some incredible stories of the Bible with vivid imagery. Next week is Holy Week and it is the Super Bowl of Christian holidays so you definitely want to mark this time as holy and some of our very special worship opportunities that start this Sunday with Palm Sunday. (click here to see them all)
And the other March Madness that happens this time of year for me is time I deeply love. In fact, this next weekend over 3 days, the 64 best teams in the country with play against each other to whittle down to 16 in what we call the Sweet 16. Of course in successive weekends, it will whittle down to one. Even though my Blue Devils this year don’t have a “snowballs chance in (you finish the sentence on your own)," we are defending a National Title so there is something at stake for me. But I try to put my finger on the pulse of why this time of year is nirvana for college basketball fans everywhere. I think it has something to do with a lesson that we can take away from the tourney - that anything seems possible. A number 1 seed has never lost to a 16 seed, but anything is possible. There will be Cinderella stories where teams that simply shouldn’t lose, will lose. And teams that shouldn’t advance, will find a will and a way to win. In the dance, everybody has a chance. And I also think that in a world where we sometimes treat sports heroes like robots, the tourney reminds us that even these athletic 19-year-olds are simply humans fueled by a larger than life dream. And there is something about that which grabs our imagination and calls us to more. Everybody has a chance and the power of a dream - maybe these are just two reasons why the “dance” captivates our imagination.
March Madness is an interesting time. It gives us the Holy Time of walking the way of the cross with Jesus and asking God to let some of the splinters of that cross rub off on us. It also, in a much less sacred way, lets us rally around Cinderellas and scream at the TV to see who will realize the dream that many have worked for a lifetime to attain. March is good time, if we will pay attention. But mark my words - whatever teams hang a banner after this March - their glory will fade and their celebrations. . . spectacular but temporary. I encourage you to give at least similar if not more enthusiasm to the One whose Glory never fades, “And He shall Reign Forever and Ever.” Amen.