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Goodbye Zach!

I am writing today in solidarity with sad Eagles’ fans.  Yet again, this season seems to be a rather disappointing one for the Philadelphia Eagles… and we are not even half-way through.  But today, I am not grieving the win-loss ratio, though that is worth grieving!  Today, I am saddened by the loss of Zach Ertz.  Since 2013 he has been part of our Eagles’ family, playing tight end with a series of quarterbacks- Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts.  How hard to find your footing with so much change at the helm, yet Zach Ertz has played admirably through it all.  In the 2018 Super Bowl Game, Ertz made the go-ahead touch down that helped the Eagles claim victory over the Patriots.  I remember seeing him at the parade to celebrate that historic win for our city.  He will go down in Eagles’ history as part of that winning team.
Ertz is a born and bred California boy and played college football at Stanford where he was named an All-American.  Decades before, his father played for Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, giving this California family some Pennsylvania roots.  In 2013 those Pennsylvania roots bore fruit. Ertz was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles- a moment Zach describes as being “adopted into the Philly family.”  Last Tuesday, Ertz wrote a full-page letter in the sports section of the Philadelphia Inquirer thanking “Philly” for all our love and support in his eight years of playing.  He wrote: “Running through that tunnel every Sunday at the Linc truly changed my life.” His letter continued:
Now comes the toughest part for me, saying goodbye, for now,
to the city that I love… the city that adopted a young rookie
and through so many life events and memories,
raised that same rookie to be a veteran.
Ertz goes on to celebrate the “brothers” that led him to faith.  Again and again throughout the letter Zach Ertz uses family imagery to describe his relationship with the Eagles and our city.  His final greeting sealed that relationship- “I love you guys”, and then he offered Proverbs 3:5 for the family to consider: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…
Family.  What a gift when we are family for one another!  So… one has to wonder why the family traded the “adopted” son to the Arizona Cardinals.  I have heard so many sports commentators try to explain this move, or complain about this move, but always in terms of the business of football.  But for those of us who feel bonded to the family, it feels like we have sold our own son to Phoenix.  I am told that this trade is a good one for Zach Ertz, that he has gone to a winning team that even has the potential to go all the way this year.  His skills will be well used there.  He will be well appreciated there.  Perhaps he will even become part of the family there.  But for those of us in the family left behind, we are just sad.
As I have contemplated the exit of Zach Ertz from the Eagles’ family, I have begun to wonder if this drama is a parable for our sense of family in the modern world.  The pandemic has strengthened the resolve of some to hold tight to the bonds of family.  And others have seen the stress of the pandemic tear at the fabric of our precious family ties.  I went to a wedding last Friday to celebrate the marriage of a dear friend’s daughter.  What a lovely beginning, but I know that there will be challenging times ahead that will test the promises made before God that day.  Too often we allow hurtful words and failed promises to sever family ties given to us by God.  If we see value in the relationship, we continue to invest in that person, but if not, we allow those connections to fade away, or we make a clean break.  Whatever happened to “for better- for worse?”
The same challenges can be seen in the church.  The Bible often uses family language to describe our Christian fellowship.  Jesus teaches us to call God our “Father”… using the Hebrew word “Abba” meaning Daddy.  John writes:
“How great the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!

(I John 3:1)
Paul writes that we are the “adopted” children of God.  And then Paul describes our family relationship with one another, calling us “brothers”- modern biblical translations often add “sisters” to make the text more inclusive of the whole family.  Blessed be the ties that binds our hearts in Christian love!  These are sacred bonds- God weaving our lives together.  This past weekend- our Church Has Left the Building mission weekend- saw us bonded together in service.  What a joy to behold!  These bonds are not of our choosing but of God’s call.  These bonds cut across denominations and even our human sensibilities to create not just Lenape Valley Church but the church of Jesus Christ.  These bonds are intended for an eternity of fellowship ultimately with the Church Triumphant.  We might not always agree with one another, and at times we might be tempted to trade our brother to Phoenix… but God’s will is for us to be a family for better or for worse, declaring God’s praise to the world.

Thanking God for you today, my brothers and sisters!

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