See the Whole Game: Holy Week, Easter and Alabama Football

Paul Bear BryantThroughout my time living in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama football was monumental–if not primary–in my life. It was a part of who I was. I cut my teeth on the Crimson Tide in the late 1970s, at which time Alabama was a national powerhouse. My father and I went to every home game and it was not until 1981 that I saw my team lose in Tuscaloosa. I still remember seeing Coach Paul Bryant prowling the sidelines, a Chesterfield cigarette hanging from his lip and his signature hound’s-tooth hat perched on top of his tall, imposing frame.

“In Crimson Tide”

As I came of age, it became a pet peeve of mine to arrive late for the football games. I loved the pregame energy, pomp, and seeing the teams take the field. Penn State, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Auburn, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Florida were all great teams that ran through that tunnel to compete against my Crimson Tide. When friends were dithering at the tailgate, I was the drill sergeant moving us all up to our seats. Theologically speaking, I was “in Crimson Tide” and I did not want to miss one second of that part of me that was formed so early in life with my father.

“In Christ”

jesus christThings have gradually changed for me since I became a Christian in 1993. The work of the Holy Spirit has begun forming something different and greater in my inner being. My identity is no longer defined as being “In Crimson Tide” but “in Christ”. It seems at first like ascetic self-denial but it is really the case that I enjoy other things more. I can now enjoy watching Alabama and not be cast down for two months if we lose to Auburn or Tennessee. Jesus Christ as the proper marker for my identity gives me a healthy relationship to good but lesser things like football, money, relationships, politics, and even family. Being “In Christ” is that from which human flourishing emanates.

Being “in Christ”, though, is to understand and hear the whole story. We are approaching Holy Week. Palm Sunday is this coming Sunday! In order to truly hear and be a part of the Christian story, Holy Week is ground zero. The three services you will experience during Holy Week are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (the Easter sunrise service will be a taste of the Easter Vigil). This is called the Triduum and it is considered one long service lasting throughout those days.

The Whole Story

Holy WeekAs in those Alabama football years, I don’t want to be late to hear the story. If I miss Maundy Thursday, I will miss the Last Supper and Our Lord’s anguish in Gethsemane. If I miss Good Friday, I will miss the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. If I only come on Easter Sunday, I will not have gone through the anguish and death of Our Lord in order to get to the Resurrection. In football terms, I will come in with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, missing the turnovers, heroic first downs, and defensive stops that have led to the climax of the game.

easter sundayThe Resurrection is a sublime and unexpected event in human history. It is the source of all hope and the source of all human flourishing. Part of the message of Christianity, though, is that it understands our pain, frustration, and transgression. It does not try to sugarcoat the pill when it comes to diagnosis. Connecting with that part of your life is essential to seeing that God has made a way for us in His Son.

Come and See

This Holy Week, come experience Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with us. Get here for the beginning of the game. Connect with all of those things Jesus came to make new and understand how he did it. It will make Easter Sunday all the more glorious.