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Everyone Loves a Winner

Certainly, this line can be said of Philadelphia. We love our teams when they win and are famous for ‘booing’ our teams when they lose. Case in point, Trea Truner, our new shortstop and star hitter- or at least that is why we signed Turner to a 11-year, $300 million deal! Turner is a two-time All-Star with impressive stats that helped to take the Nationals to a World Series win in 2019. He won the batting title after he was traded to the Dodgers in 2021, with 21 homers, 101 runs and 100 RBIs (runs batted in). At 30 years old, he is still one of the fastest runners in baseball, and one of the best shortstops. All these stats and facts convinced the Phillies home office to sign Turner as our new star. And then he slumped, and we booed. Everyone loves a winner and we have paid royally for Turner to produce wins! So, when he swings and misses, we boo.

Until Bryce Harper spoke up. Harper and Turner are long-time friends. They started as teammates on the Nationals and are happily reunited on the Phillies. Knowing Turner’s psyche, Harper encouraged the fans to cheer his friend rather than boo. A social media campaign was born, calling Philly fans to reverse their normal behavior. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but surprisingly the Philly fans responded. Over the weekend, fans gave Turner standing ovations when he was up at bat, cheering him on to a three-run homer in a win Saturday against the Royals. Perhaps it’s true that you catch more flies with honey. But even with all these old sayings, I think the fans will soon return to their old ways, cheering winners and booing those who come up short. Ultimately the saying that stands the test of time in Philadelphia is: Everyone loves a winner.

Even as we cheer on our Phillies, hoping for another run at the World Series title, many of us are now donning Eagles’ Kelly green. The Eagles first pre-season game will be in Baltimore on Saturday against the Ravens. The hype is already warming up about our team. They say we are ‘the most complete team’ in the NFL. With the acquisition of two veteran linebackers just this week, our team looks poised for another run at the championship. Is it possible that our teams could give us another year like last year when we came gloriously and painfully close to the prize? Last year, three of our teams (football, baseball, and soccer) had winning seasons that will go down in the record books, yet there are some who were disappointed that all three teams came up one game short. The bottom line- Philly loves winners!

Perhaps you love gymnastics… then you must be excited for the return of Simon Biles to the scene. Many of us watched as Biles struggled and then withdrew from competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She was suffering from what gymnasts call the “twisties”, when athletes lose spatial awareness of where they are on the mat. Many thought she would never return to the sport. But after a two-year absence from gymnastics, Biles thrilled the crowds on Saturday as she decisively won the competition in Chicago. Biles finished five points ahead of the silver medalist- an unbelievable margin in a sport of tenths. This competition is just the warm-up for Nationals and Worlds, with perhaps a run at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Could we hope for Olympic Gold? We love our winners.

But then there is the US Women’s National Soccer team… seeded #1 going into the Women’s World Cup competition in New Zealand. Many hoped we would see a ‘three-peat’. But after winning back-to-back World Cups, the heavily favored Team USA was eliminated by Sweden. On Sunday, early in the morning, before the sun was up, while I was preparing for worship, some of you were watching the game, willing to sacrifice sleep to cheer on our ladies in what turned out to be their last game. Fascinating, there were some rather prominent US voices- a famous religious leader, a leading political candidate, and a major news outlet- all cheering for our team to lose. Today, I am not willing to step into that complicated and nasty political quagmire. Suffice it to say, we have no one in the soccer winner’s circle this time around. With politics aside, we usually love winners.

We love winners. We honor them. We wear their colors and sport their names on our backs. We raise our children to be winners. We spend hours of valuable time watching… cheering… hoping to ride their coattails to another win. As a pastor, many times I portray Jesus as a winner, so that you will want to be on His team. When we pray, we are betting on Jesus for the win. But the faith we claim finds our Palm Sunday champion dying on a cross just days later. The third verse of the classic hymn God of Grace and God of Glory reads:
Cure Thy children’s warring madness; Bend our pride to Thy control;
Shame our wanton, selfish gladness, Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.
Isn’t winning the goal? Not according to Jesus. Jesus said, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” (Matt. 20:16) “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11) “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14;7) The One we claim to follow flips the world upside-down, humbling Himself, even to death on the cross, to win the victory for us that brings us LIFE. I have much to learn to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. I still plan to cheer on our Eagles and my Nittany Lions… but I want to learn how walk in the footsteps of the One who gave his life away for the world God so loves.

With you on that journey,
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