Thursday, September 13, 2018


I'm not really a college football guy. My own alma mater - the University of Chicago - happens to be undefeated against powerhouse programs like Notre Dame and Northwestern ... but I think they stopped playing D1 sports something like eighty years ago. We were a school with a really good chess team, if you know what I mean.

That said, it's been impossible to live in Nebraska this past year and not get caught up in the wave of attention gathered around Scott Frost. From what I've pieced together from the occasional snippet I overhear in the coffee hours and grocery stores of our fair city, Scott Frost was a powerful quarterback in the days of Husker glory back in the late 1990's, and now he's here to jump-start the UNL program back to greatness. Fans have watched with an enthusiasm rising to a fever pitch over the past weeks as we finally got to see the fruits of this expectation.

And then the game got rained out.

And they lost the second game.

Our heroic former-star-turned-coach is sitting at 0-1.

Again, I'm not really a college football guy. But I have to chuckle a bit here, because this, for me, is a pretty good image of a life of faith.

We hear the stories of the glorious things that saints-gone-by have done. We name our churches after them, and to some extent lay claim to the heritage of their gifts and faithfulness. We keep hoping that we can jump-start our faith in some powerful way, leaping to great heights and perfect joys that keep us shielded from the hardships of life and help us celebrate all the blessings.

But more often than not, we start out like poor Scott Frost: no matter how prepared we feel or how much work we've done, sometimes the game we thought we were showing up for gets rained out.

The Presbyterian minister Eugene Peterson (probably best known for his "interpretation" of the Bible into everyday language, The Message), is well-known for calling faith, "A long obedience in the same direction."

This is often the reality of faith: it's our long obedience that shapes us, and gives us the truly deep gifts of Christ's peace and real love of our neighbor, our God, and our own selves. There's no way to get ahead of it; no way to show up perfectly prepared; no way to skip to the end. Real faith - like, say, a Nebraska football program - is built up over time.

The good news? We've built up some great training facilities over the years. Beautiful worship and holy music can really get into your bones - the words of our hymns often give us language for our relationship with God that we don't even realize we're digesting. Our opportunities to serve each other here, and our neighbors throughout this community and even the world, give us the chance to learn what love really is - to move beyond ourselves and into true fellowship. And the lessons of scripture, when we use them to better understand our own hearts and the hope of God for what our lives might be, really can become a firm foundation for building a life of faith that lasts in this world.

So here's to giving our faith life some time ... and maybe poor Scott Frost, if that feels like a helpful discipline while you're at it! And here's to all the fruits of our own Long Obediences ... it's amazing what God can bring about in us and through us when we keep showing up!

Fr. Ben+

The Reverend Ben Varnum, Rector, St. Augustine’s, Elkhorn