(Posted on Castle Church Door – May 18, 2012
The front of our home now sports a basketball hoop. My son got it for his 9th birthday at the end of April. In a few short weeks it has changed the regular flow of our family life – for the better. On the way in or out of the house (time and weather permitting of course) the basketball comes outside and at least two of the four of us gather. Sometimes friends join us. Sometimes people coming and going from the parking lot stop to say, “hello.” The basketball travels with my son everywhere. Skills vary among us, but that is not the point – the basketball hoop is a gathering place, a community place, a group building place. I’ve had fun rekindling those skills for myself since I have not played in a while. It has been even more fun teaching those skills to my new apprentice.
In the three weeks we have had the hoop, there has already been some lessons taught and learned. Right away we learned the advantages of the adjustable height feature on the hoop. While it will be important to eventually get comfortable shooting at the ten foot mark, right now eight feet is great. Even my daughter (two years younger) can get close to shooting the ball through the hoop at that height. I can dunk, which is a huge ego boost since I have never been able to do that on a ten foot rim! In a few short weeks my son has acquired a pretty consistent jump-shot and it great to watch him hone his skills. Around the world, HORSE (along with variations like NERD) and 21 are already routine games we play. We also learned early on that the ball should really come in with us when we are finished or a game will almost instantly break out among others. Not that we are not welcoming, but the power of the hoop to draw people is an amazing thing to behold. We learned that we have needed to implement a “no dribbling the ball in the house” edict so a loose ball doesn’t knock anything over. As we imposed the new rule I remembered dribbling my ball in my dorm room when I played for the college team my first year, and some girls came up from downstairs complaining about the noise from their ceiling. Oops. I was having so much fun I wasn’t thinking about that. Neither was my son. I get it – playing ball is fun. Fun is the reason why we got the hoop in the first place, and it has been for the whole family, and for all those who gather. When our friend J-Jeff was with us from Minnesota last week we spent a lot of time at the hoop. We even learned some new trick shots.
Maybe basketball isn’t your thing, but I have had joy thinking about how the church is a lot like a basketball hoop. When we are at the top of our game, the church gathers people together in the joy we share. When people hear the sound of the dribble they look up to see where the game is, hoping to join in. When the church is at its best we do exactly the same thing – draw people into the Good News we share and celebrate welcoming others to join us. Skills vary, but all are welcome. All of us contribute to the team. We all have different abilities and strengths – some can dribble, some can pass, some can shoot with great precision, some are good encouragers, some are scrappy, some play good defense, some can teach good skills; but we are all the body of Christ – working together as a team toward the same goal, and when we laugh and play while doing it, we are the better for it and the Spirit seems alive among us.
Often people get flustered when the goals look too high, too distant, too out of reach – and too often religious or spiritual life is presented that way in our world. Why pick up the ball and try, if there is no possible way to make the shot from such a distance? But Christ comes down to us, and hands us the ball. One great lesson I’ve learned from our new hoop is that the basket adjusts its height to our level. Not that we are supposed to lower our standards or make things so easy that nothing matters – in this game we don’t foul out. Rather, the adjustable nature of Joe’s new hoop reminds me that Christ meets us at our level. Jesus includes us on the team even when we stink, when we can’t make a shot at all, when we are in serious foul trouble, and especially when we are too scared to even try. Christ makes us part of the team, coaching us to play the game. Jesus comes down to us – rather than looking down on us in scorn. I think of an adult kneeling on one knee or sitting on a chair to talk to a child so they can look them in the eye to meet them where they are, encouraging, teaching, mentoring, and including them in the activity that is happening. Christ treats us that way – in love.
Jesus reveals to us that faith is not out of reach. Faith is a gift that is given in love; a joy that is shared; a reason to celebrate and gather people together. The church, at its best – is the hoop at which we gather. The Spirit draws the community to hear the dribbling of God’s promises as Christ hands us the ball with the love of his Father (even if it means dribbling in the house).
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)