Sunday, March 20, 2016

Selection Sunday vs Palm Sunday


As a college basketball fan (and if you are too) can we just acknowledge how amazing the tournament this year has been? Upset after upset, buzzer beater after buzzer beater, unless you bet your life savings on Michigan State winning it all, it is almost impossible to not love this March Madness. 

One thought I also have this time of year is why do we love underdogs and upsets so much.  This can be seen in so much more than just college basketball. 

Almost every superhero started as a loser before some freak accident.

We love Cinderella and she is probably everyone’s favorite Disney Princess (Mine’s Rapunzel in Tangled but I feel like that is cheating).

We cheer for the nerdy girl in the rom-com and hate the cheerleader.

The reason we do this is because we often see ourselves as underdogs.  We live lives and undersell ourselves and our experiences.   We compare ourselves to the dorky guy or the quirky girl, but not the other characters. Don’t tell me you didn’t watch 500 Days of Summer for the first time and be like, "This is too real. I'm just like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this."

We can view ourselves as the underdog, but really we can be the exact opposite.  We can be prideful and jerks and not even notice it.  We can be cynical from afar and justify that it is ok because we are doing it from afar.  Sometimes we live like Duke basketball but think of ourselves as Mercer (Sorry Duke fans).  It is easier to want to be the sad person who succeeds than as the happy person who fails.

If we are honest with ourselves, the "big guy" in the tournament, and life wins way more often.

The lowest seed to ever win the tournament was an eight seed when the 1985 Villanova Wildcats did the improbable and upset Georgetown in the championship game.   One seeds in the tournament have won the championship significantly more than any other and the Final Four is usually built up of seeds one through three.

 Upsets do not happen that often in life either.  The strong get stronger and the weaker get weaker. 

The rarity is another reason we love them so much.  It is why we want a lot of things in life to look like an underdog winning because it is a lot cooler than what usually happens.

I think we do this with Jesus a lot.  We make it seem like Jesus' victories are an upset over the evil powers of the world, but they are not, because he will always have more power than the world.  God will always win.  God is a "one seed" and the world is a "sixteen seed," but I feel like we, myself included, sometimes flip that script.

Palm Sunday (which is today) and all of Holy Week are a perfect example of this.  During Holy Week, Jesus appears to go from a “one seed” on Sunday to a “sixteen seed” on Friday and back to a “one seed” on Sunday, or so it appears.  John Mark McMillan describes this in his song, Death in His Grave, as "On Friday a thief, on Sunday a King."

Christ was still a king on Friday, but human perception of him was as a thief.  During the crucifixion, it appears that Jesus is powerless, but that is when he is the most powerful.  That was when His love was greatest.  That was when His humility was the greatest.  That was when He had the greatest victory…the victory over death.

Maybe we make the appearance of the crucifixion and resurrection being an upset so it seems better because upsets in our human life are better. 

Upsets aren't really an upset, though.  Middle Tennessee for one day was better than Michigan State.  Before and after that day they most likely aren’t a better basketball team, but for that day, they are (sorry that was kind of meta). 

Most teams that have a first-round upset do not go on past that.  Middle Tennessee can beat MSU, but get beat by Syracuse in the next round, but Christ's victory is eternal.  Christ is strong every day.  That is what is so great about Christ.  Christ can, and does, beat death every single day and that victory is not an upset.  It is easier to see the power of death than the power of Christ some days, but just because that is what we see does not mean it is true.

We need to stop selling Christ short.  He has so much power; more power than we can comprehend.  Christ does not lose.  Our human perception might view his victories sometimes as an upset and other times as a predicted blowout, but they are always the later of the two.  Christ's victories are consistent and great.  Christ helps us upset the world with his love because we are weak and he is strong.

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