I’m a big fan of the Philadelphia Union and soccer in general. After moving back to the area last year I attended my first game at PPL Park and fell in love with the atmosphere and subsequently the team despite their less than stellar performance on the field. Going into this new season, I’m a card-carrying member of the supporters club that goes by the name Sons of Ben, have a partial season ticket plan and fly a Union flag outside my house on match days. In most sports you would call me a fan but in soccer I’m often referred to as a supporter unafraid to sing loud the song “I’m sticking with the Union ’till I die” when it comes over the loud speaker at the end of games. Or something like that.
In addition to reading the wonderful reflections fellow members of our camp community have written during this season, I’ve been reading from a “Lent for Everyone” reading plan written by N.T. Wright on YouVersion. Early on in his devotions the British theologian imagines a soccer game where a starting 11 is picked from the crowd instead of from the team roster and compares it to how Jesus calls his people.
It’s something that has stuck with me through the Lent season so far because I realize all too often that when it comes to my faith in Christ it too closely resembles my support of the Union. I sing and cheer (while always standing) in the River End with the other hardcore supporters on match day and I spend my week talking about the team, reading and at times writing articles online. But if it came down to actually having to play on the field I would be absolutely terrified and resistant (because I know that the left back for a fourth division amateur adult league club would be completely crushed and embarrassed).
This idea of picking fans from the stands to play the game would be bonkers in professional sports, but that’s more or less what Jesus did when he called His first disciples. Rather than pick from the conventional pool of up and coming religious scholars Jesus called on the fishermen and the tax collectors to be his closest confidants, people who the scholars would have cleaned the floor with in Bible trivia and maybe even soccer if had been around back then. As we read in Matthew 4, Jesus drafted his disciples without fanfare by simply asking them, in the case of the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John, to drop their nets and follow him. “I will make you fishers of men!” he told them without much more of an explanation. By accepting his invitation, the early disciples became more than just fans of Jesus; they became disciples, which is another word for students who follow a mentor.
Jesus wants the same from us. He wants more from us than our singing of songs, reciting of Bible verses and weekly church attendance. He wants us to follow him to the ends of the earth and lay our lives down for the cause that has more on the line than a cup trophy at the end of the season or a parade down Broad Street. In a day and age where being a fan of something is as easy as clicking a “like” button on your computer, Jesus calls us to be so much more.
Matt Ralph is a former camper and editor of the Delanco Camp Blog. He lives in Media, Pa., and works in the marketing department of a community college.