Hockey, the Bible, and the new broadcast.
As a Canadian kid, I lived and breathed hockey. At least twice per week in the winter, I would be on the ice, practicing or playing indoors and outdoors. I wouldn’t miss a Toronto Maple leafs game each Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada was and still is a national religion for most Canadians. However, I had a small problem. Our family lived in rural farming country, and television reception was very limited. Through an old towering metal antenna placed atop our house, we could pick up two channels.
I. The Game. The Context.
If the weather cooperated, my hockey game was visible and I could sit back and enjoy the game. Unless you know hockey well, it’s a difficult game to watch on TV. For one, the speed and constant motion of the ten players and two goalies is more like a dance rather than static one-off plays you can follow specifically like baseball, golf or American football. Secondly, the size of the puck. The rather obscure rubber disk can fit in the palm of your hand, and ricochets around the ice surface like a splitting atom.
Trying to follow the puck on an old standard definition TV set is difficult even for seasoned hockey fanatics with 20/20 vision, let alone the far or short sighted amateur sporting enthusiast! To make matters more difficult in viewing and understanding the game, the real strategies and momentum of the game takes place usually away from the puck, where the game is emerging. I think this is why I’m so attracted to the game still after all these years – the goals come from strategic shifts in the play well before the dangerous scoring chances.
II. Poor Reception
When the weather would take a turn for the worse, I was really in a pickle. The static interference would come in waves, like a snow storm over the glass television tube. Sometimes I could make out which team had the puck, other times I had to settle for fragments of the announcers voice that would break though with some commentary. I think it would have been easier at times to listen to the radio like my grandparents did. I remember a few times during my youth, especially during the Olympics or important playoff games climbing on top of my house and repositioning the antenna, working in tandem with my kind mama who would yell up to me if the picture quality improved from my twisting and bending of the antenna. I recall one particular time when it was in the winter, the roof was covered in snow, a small voice whispered inside, “What are you doing? This is insane, you could die up here!” But I was always so close to good reception!
III. Restored Vision – A Satellite Dish!
One Canadian summer as a young teenager, I took matters into my own hands. I worked all summer on the farm, saved up my money and bought a satellite dish. This thing was huge, not like the little dishes we see today on the sides of houses.
Overnight, everything changed. Hundreds of channels, and not one hockey station, but dozens, all crystal clear!
For the first time I could see the puck perfectly, the players faces, even their expressions. The game took on new pleasure as I was able to rest, and take in the most realistic expression of hockey aside from going to a live game. I stopped my roof-top adventures and never looked back.
IV. HD Viewing
In Ukraine, I’m not able to watch the true HD experience yet, but we occasionally return to visit my parents and experience it on my parents +80″ TV. Notice I said, “experience it.” Against the backdrop of my static antenna experience, I’m mesmerized by the clarity. For me, it’s a thing of beauty as I’m transported to the arena, I can almost smell the air, the open sound of an arena, the crunching sounds of the blades. I read they now have 8k, I can’t imagine it, but I’m excited to see it. The high definition of digital viewing reveals the clearest representation of the game of hockey.
While I’m thankful for the old analog childhood experience, I’m never going back!
V. The Bible & the Analog Antenna
While I enjoy musing about hockey, I obviously didn’t write this post to educate readers on my favorite sport. As a believer, my fascination takes root in the life of Jesus. I relate His coming to my childhood hockey viewing experience. Allow me to explain!
In the thousand years before Christ, there was something underfoot, something really amazing taking place behind the scenes. Our dynamic, sovereign Creator was at work, slowly and deliberately working with a chosen people. Under the cloud of mystery, and alongside this imperfect people, God was revealing Himself, and also revealing just how far humanity had fallen from His original design. Like the old antenna, in the Old Testament writings we are invited to journey with a sojourning Nation. We catch movement, glimpses, but often veiled illusions of what was actually going on. We follow a story, but like the nation and its players, the static of God’s mystery shrouds the experience of what is to come.
When I read the Old Testament, it’s like watching a hockey game on a fuzzy channel. It’s at times clear, then we’re hit with obscure cultural references, people speaking for God (called Prophets), some thinking they are speaking for God, and decisions and activities that make us cringe (many in the name of God). We see elements of beauty, then destruction. We’re motivated by tremendous acts of courage, then raise our eye brows at petty jealousy and acts of revenge. We see a nation struggling to understand who God, believe and trust. Some times they get it right, sometimes they don’t.
Now before evangelicals begin to throw things at me, I am not rejecting the authority and inspiration holy scripture. I believe all of scripture is inspired and useful for our journey (2 Tim 3:16-17) but only as far as its doctrines nourish us in the Son. The letter kills, the Spirit gives us life, and life is in the Son.
What I am suggesting is that we are in danger of making the Bible an idol if we don’t rightly centralize Jesus Christ and believe His words? If Jewish leaders were capable of fanatically following the Torah and yet missing the teaching of the author (Moses), what makes us think we aren’t capable of fanatically following the Bible without knowing God (Jesus?)? God didn’t drop a magic book from the sky, but He did drop into the form of a Jewish carpenter. Believing this radical event is the essence of true Christ following. We are not biblians, we are Christ-ians.
The Bible reveals and leads us to Jesus. This is why it’s so powerful, and why it has stood the test of time under the sovereign work of the Father. It is the preserved covenant of Jesus in written form, for all ages. Those who have championed scripture for any other purpose have found themselves champions of religion, using it as a means of control and self-preservation more than liberation for the masses.
It’s not until Jesus the living Word of God comes, that we are able to decipher and comprehend the Bible as a grand Divinely inspired work that points to the coming Son.
Jesus unblocks the static and pulls back the curtains to God’s master performance. Creator is expanding a family, from every nation, every culture on earth, and He is doing it through His sent Son.
Like trying to watch hockey in a snow storm, the Jewish nation was receiving signals, capturing bits and pieces of God’s intentions and heart that were ultimately to be broadcast in living color in the Person of Jesus. When we read the bible, we need to read it through the lens of Jesus, or we too will remain stuck in the analog static channel of the past.
VI. Enter 4K Jesus
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:18
Oh the beauty!
When Jesus arrives on the scene, He quite literally takes over God’s communication to humanity. We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a live announcement!
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Heb 1:1-3
Prophets, take your seat. Burning bushes, clouds by day, parted seas, and even talking donkeys God used to speak to His people. When Jesus came, the last days began, and the Father launched a brand new technology for communication, His Son.
God’s 4K, crystal clear relation of Himself had arrived.
Many believers, in my opinion, are inadvertently making an idol of the Bible. They think that worship of God looks like embracing and following the letter of Scripture. They think that an accurate reflection of God’s character is found in the Old Testament. By elevating the “Bible” to a place of supremacy against the source of life, we will remain in our sins. The bible didn’t die for us, the Son did.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. Jn 5:39-40.
Like becoming convinced that my old antenna was providing me an accurate reflection of the real hockey game, Israel had embraced their experience, history, and writings as the exclusive signal and reflection of God to humanity. When Jesus arrives, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col 2)began to broadcast what God was ACTUALLY like.
The early Church understood this, as they worshiped the risen Word of God as the Word of God before the New Testament was canonized in the 4th century.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, of his boundless love, became what we are that he might make us what he himself is.” Irenaeus (130-202)
Jesus HD clarity doesn’t illuminate the old channel, but provides the means of rightly understanding it. His life and teachings fulfill (Jn 5:17) and fill-in the missing pixels which produced the static in the first place. Israel’s ignorance, legalism, their neglect of the weightier matters of the heart and motivations were immediately understood through the life and teachings of the Logos of God.
In His famous Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5) Jesus repeatedly took Israels scrambled signals and re-established the true Spirit of the Father. “You have heard that…But I say to you” is repeated throughout this powerful sermon in Matthew chapter 5. The stunned audience, grown accustom to the fuzzy projection of Judaism was blown away by the details and clarity of Christ’s HD reflection:
“You have heard it was said, ‘Love your neighbors and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Mt 5:43-33
Jesus regularly took Scripture from the Jewish writings from the Torah and revealed how far off the mark they had become. He wants us to reflect the Father, it’s important for His family to know His real heart! To hate is the spirit of murder. To lust is the heart of adultery. To love is to embrace not just your friends but those who despise you. Let the children come, not just the important people. Stop casting stones of judgement, you are all guilty! I haven’t come to judge, but to save!
Clarity, definition, now the people could see the Father, and He is good in every sense of the word. We see Jesus as just, humble, self-sacrificing, inviting, pursuing. All the things we could ever hope for as a created people, our God is. He wants us to reflect His heart so He takes the commands Israel had received on the earlier channel and connects them to the digital stream – the Kingdom is selfless love, the King is selfless love, and his Kingdom people receive and share in this love!
The gospel means ‘good news.” The good news is not only that Christ has come to suffer for our sins, but that we can now see, and trust wholeheartedly that the Father is essence of goodness!
Imagine if the 4K Jesus revealed something other than goodness. What if he elevated the Jewish religious leaders in their pride, and created an isolated group of elite soldiers for disciples instead of the rag-tag group we see in scripture? What if He ruled like Hitler, punished dissenters and vaporized the weak? Some believers secretly battle trusting God because they read the Old Testament and see an unpredictable, ruthless and yet all-powerful God. Many struggle to believe prayer accomplishes much of anything because the god of their mind has been shaped by influences that don’t elevate Christ supremely. Without Jesus, we’re left watching a fuzzy channel that can come across like God is obtuse, distant and doing His own thing. Thankfully, we do have Jesus, and it’s through His revealed life that we are introduced to the true character of God as present, working, and co-laboring with us in a broken world. Start with Jesus, build your faith on this rock, it’s a safe place!
Jesus is the primary signal for understanding the hockey game. We tune in and give the Father the final say about His own character.
We don’t need to fashion a relationship with God in our own minds. We no longer need to grope in the dark. We have seen the Father, His revelation is love and His invitation to receive it.
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Jn 14:9
In recent years, I’ve enjoyed a resurgence of joy and rest in knowing Jesus personally. He has become for me the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24) and glory of God (2 Cor 4:4). I’m becoming a Jesus fanatic, help!
He has become my primary starting point, my subscription to God, making Christ supreme in the formation of communicating the God that I serve. That’s not to suggest that I don’t value the entirety of the Bible, I consider it divinely inspired and invaluable to my faith journey. It affirms my faith in Jesus, and more concisely, clarifies God’s intended broadcast as we see God’s overall enterprise and synthesizing in both testaments.
“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.” Spurgeon
The reason scripture widens is the insights and humbling depths of Creator’s sovereign love towards us in Christ. There is no ending to the depths of this love and knowing God through the resurrected Christ (Phil 3:8). Jesus doesn’t conflict with scripture, He helps us rightly understand it and the Father.
As the wise-men were guided to Christ on the night of His birth, the Bible is is our north-star that leads us to Jesus. We don’t worship stars, we worship the Son.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. Revelations 19:13
I highly recommend spending some time journeying through the Gospel of John. You don’t have to study the Greek and get into deep cultural studies at first. You don’t need a teacher or pastor to inspire you with their particular revelation. The Holy Spirit is our gift from the Father, He fills and teaches us (Jn 14:26). As you read, place yourself in the scenes, ponder and listen to what the Spirit might be saying through the story. I believe the Spirit loves to connect the 4K broadcast if we humbly come with open hearts. Consider the means and cost the Father endured to bring you His very heart. Allow the fuzzy to become clear as the life of Christ widens your eyes and inspires you to trust your Creator in new, deeper ways.
This is the nature of saving faith, a surrendered trust in the revealed character of God.
The very best times in my journey have been walking through the Gospels and sensing the heart of the Father in Jesus words, actions, and humble inaction. What a God we serve!
The hopes and fears of all the years. Are met in thee tonight.
Thank you Jesus for coming as the very Word of God. Thank you for the written revelation that informs our hearts and draws us to yours. Thank you for your broadcast in living, breathing color. I’m so thankful for the experience of knowing you, and that we don’t have to climb roofs and turn antennas anymore.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Col 3:16