Last year I announced three areas where the parish would focus over the next three years. “Encountering Christ Through Scripture” was one. For example, Walking With Purpose has been a blessing 130+ women every Thursday. WWP has also been a spiritual force behind much of the current momentum that some sense in the parish. However, we haven’t seen that kind of scriptural enthusiasm among the men of the parish. In light of the heroes of Super Bowl LII, that might now change.
Winning and losing is not only a key to football, it is a key to life. The faith NFL players is something “that keeps them grounded – win or lose.” For example, Shawn Brown of CBN News wrote How Eagles and Patriots Are Using the Super Bowl to Glorify God. “The Eagles had arguably been the best team in the NFL this season. Safety Malcolm Jenkins said it had a lot to do with the “brotherhood of faith” he and his teammates formed in the off-season through Bible studies, prayer and even baptism.”
Speaking of “walking with purpose,” Patriot wide receiver Matthew Slater said, “I feel my purpose in the NFL and on this earth is bigger than football. I’ve been given the platform of football to build relationships, to build bridges to connect with people, and show them the love of Christ.” He echoes Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. As recounted in “The Gospel According to Carson Wentz” by Jeff Mclane (Staff Writer, Philadelphia Inquirer) “As a Christian (Carson) has an obligation to use his platform as an NFL quarterback to be a disciple and spread God’s Word.
The 2017 NFL season could have been titled, “The Year of Public Demonstration.” As seen in, The Philadelphia Eagles: A Band of Bible-Believing Brothers Whose Faith in Inspiring Millions, “Flip the channel to ESPN this season, and you’re bound to get one of two very different tales. You may have seen headlines of free agent Colin Kaepernick and his public demonstration of taking a knee. While the NFL season was riddled with politics and opinions, there’s a very different “public demonstration” making waves among the NFL, thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles. The No. 1 ranked team in the league headed to Super Bowl LII, warranting them plenty of airtime on the sports broadcasting network. But greater than successful wins is the team’s public demonstration of their faith.”
Wide receiver Torrey Smith relates how important it is to receive support from a close fellowship of other men-in-the trenches of life. Smith talks about the relevant applications of biblical principles to all aspects of his life. “As men, you tend to be very sheltered. If I am going through some things, I may not express that to the next man. Only you can choose to expose your weaknesses and things you want to work on, whether it’s relationships or your marriage or your family.” Smith added, “When you’re able to talk about it amongst your brothers, it helps you grow. And when you realize that you can apply biblical principles to it, it helps us all grow.” Smith and other Eagles players shared these sentiments in a featured YouTube video called, The Philadelphia Eagles Locker Room’s Binding Force.
Josh Cooley is author of Playing with Purpose: Inside the Lives and Faith of Major League’s Top Players and The Biggest Win: Pro Football Players Tackle Faith.) In, Behind the Scenes at Philadelphia Eagles Bible Study: God is at Work, he writes that “The Eagles’ Bible study is far different from the Bible study or chapels found on other NFL teams… What distinguishes the Eagles is the players’ uncompromising pursuit of biblical truth, deep theology, genuine accountability and gospel-fueled charity. They’re not interested in status quo spirituality.”
Biblically-based faith of the Super Bowl LII team is shared by Trey Burton, “Nicky-6,” Chris Maragos, Jordan Matthews, Jordan Hicks and Zach Ertz. As mentioned in a Bible Study Magazine article, Philadelphia Eagles Teammates Find Renewal And Strength In Scripture, players also rely on modern technology in their studies. “Relying on Logos Bible Software, they peruse biblical commentaries and examine keywords in Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek. They explore the ancient world of the Bible visually, using interactive features and other media in Logos.”
Men often say that they “don’t have time” to engage in any kind of scripture study or devotional practice. The Eagles’ face the same challenge. They adjust their their particular schedules to accomplish that “Engagement with Jesus” in The Word. Trey Burton comments, “Everyone is busy these days. NFL players face particular challenges when it comes to making time for God’s word, especially once training camp begins. Most Christians on the Eagles try to do their personal devotions before they leave the house.” The article says that “Wentz is used to early mornings and late nights. Such is life at the NFL’s premier position. Few players put in more hours of practice, meetings, and film study. So Wentz uses his spare time wisely. He often listens to Christian podcasts during his 30-minute drive to and from the team’s training facility. If he has a 20-minute break between meetings, he avoids social media and instead finds a quiet spot to read the Bible. ‘It really comes down to prioritizing things,’ Burton says.”
“Likewise, Maragos makes Bible study happen on the fly during the season. ‘I get to the facility, get some food in me, and it’s reading things on the go rather than sitting down,’ he says. ‘Sometimes, I’m reading things in the hot tub or reading an audio Bible or a sermon podcast during a stretching routine.’”
“Foles might win the award for pure willpower. If he has to be at the team facility at 6 a.m., he wakes up at 4 to pray and read Scripture before leaving home. If he needs to arrive at 4, he sets the alarm for—gulp—2 a.m. ‘My wife thinks I’m crazy at times, but I’ve got to get up before the day gets going,’ says Foles who is taking online seminary classes through Liberty University. ‘It doesn’t have meaning if I don’t get it going before then. Selfish desires creep in if I haven’t humbled myself daily.’”
“Once he’s up, Foles takes a cue from the Beach Boys’ playlist and seeks good vibrations. Sufficiently caffeinated by his pre-dawn cup of joe, he hops on a vibration plate—a 2×2-foot pad that emits 30 pulsations per second, to stimulate his body. There, he does his morning devotions as drowsiness is slowly and electronically evicted from his body. ‘So I’m getting my body ready to play,’ he says, ‘along with my spirit and mind.’”
Ok, St. Monica men…. What’s your excuse now?