"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Luke 12:34
By BISHOP ROBERT E. HAYES JR.
Let's see if we have all the provisions we need.
Canned goods? Check! Enough snacks and self-contained meals to last several days? Check! Emergency generator, in case the electricity goes out? Check! Several radios and extra batteries, so we won't miss a thing? Check! Enough gas in the car in case we find it necessary to get to another location fast? Check!
Sounds like the kind of list I've prepared when I was a Texas Gulf Coast resident and a storm was approaching.
Warning: A storm of another kind is poised to engulf Oklahoma. Along the Gulf, residents annually prepare for hurricane season. Tornado season is Oklahomans' focus, especially in springtime.
Then, each fall in our state, football season storms into our lives.
All the provisions listed above are crucial supplies in times of bad weather. We need a lot more to weather football season!
As your bishop, it becomes my duty to blow a warning whistle for all ministers, spouses of football fans, kids, and drop-in guests: Stay off the playing field and get out of the way. With the myriad college and pro football games on Saturdays and Sundays, it's open season on anyone who sits in the wrong seat or stands too close to the television.
Preachers, throw away your church calendars and get college and professional football schedules! Avoid planning Saturday meetings. The preferred Sunday sermon is short, sweet, and neatly packaged, and the benediction must conclude by kick-off time-oh, excuse me-high noon.
No more church work days until mid-January, and forget about people lingering in the narthex after morning worship. Perhaps you ought to look into placing speed-bumps in the church parking lot to slow down the cars that are leaving.
Spouses, if you want to see how much your husband or wife loves you, hide the remote control. Children, don't even think about asking your parents to do anything, go anywhere, or-especially-change the TV channel! No more Mr. Nice Guy. Mrs. Cleaver even sent Wally and the Beaver away.
It's so important for me to get a message to you today, while the storm named FOOTBALL is in its early stage. It's not yet at full fury.
I know this is dangerous, and I may be taking my episcopal life in my hands, but I must say it:
There is life after football. (There, I said it, and I'm glad I got it out of my system.)
My point: Many people get so caught up in the games of fall they forget there is another, more important game. It's called LIFE!
A matter of priorities
You need to know I do relish football, along with basketball and baseball. And with the name Bob Hayes, I cannot escape comparisons to a certain former Dallas Cowboys player.
At one desperate point in college, I even signed a few autographs, hoping for free meals. After all, I was Bob Hayes. But as time passed, I had to decide whether I would be the "fantasy" Bob Hayes or the minister Bob Hayes. Today, I'm delighted to be where I am, doing what I am doing.
My point: Sooner (pardon the pun) or later, all of us must decide how to live in the real world that awaits us after the football game ends.
In my very first week in Oklahoma, I found out football is a religion for some folks. My son and I were given tickets to a Saturday game, with instructions to be at the stadium by 8 a.m. Yet the tickets indicated kickoff was at noon.
When questioned, my friend simply said, "If you're not there by eight, you won't find a parking spot." He was right!
What we witnessed that day was nothing less than amazing! I saw a dedication and devotion that exceeded anything I had ever witnessed.
You know it didn't take long for me to compare the enthusiasm and loyalty I saw that Saturday to the commitment I see in a local church on any given Sunday.
That's why I call on you before this seasonal storm hits full force. You must choose where your loyalties are.
If you abandon your duties and responsibilities to your churches, to people who need you so much, it will cause great suffering.
If you lock yourself away, only to emerge after all those weekend games conclude, you will miss many golden opportunities for service.
Jesus said that where your treasures are, there also is your heart.
Turn down the volume, turn up the prayer
On a Sunday afternoon some years ago, I visited a critically ill church member at a hospital. He faced surgery the next day.
This man's life hung in the balance, but when I entered his hospital room, it seemed I was invisible. A football game was on TV; I don't think he heard a word I said.
Wanting to pray with him, I asked him to turn down the volume on the television.
By his reaction, you would have thought I asked for his firstborn child. He finally relented, but kept one eye on me and the other on that game during the prayer.
I knew I had to convey how much he needed God in that moment, so the final sentence of my prayer went like this: "O God, help this servant to realize that his two-minute warning has been given, and he has no time-outs left."
Hearing that, he turned the TV off, and we really prayed.
Amid the storms of football season, I pray that you are well supplied and that your foundation is built on solid ground.