If you have known me for any length of time at all, you know I am a HUGE college football fan. Specifically, I love my Oklahoma Sooners, but I will watch any game, even Wake Forest or Rutgers. Because it’s football! Jerry and I have season tickets to watch the Sooners play in Norman, and we even go to a few away games. When the Sooners play at home, I don’t get to watch many other games. I can listen on the radio while driving, and keep up with the scores on my phone, but it’s not the same as a full day of football immersion. And that is what I had last Saturday. Since the Sooners were away, I got to watch football ALL DAY LONG, starting with ESPN GameDay at 8:00 AM, and falling asleep to the Pac 12 games on the west coast. At some point during the Florida/Auburn game there was an aerial shot of the stadium, you know, one of those blimp views. It was a dramatic shot of a full stadium and it made me recall something I had read earlier in the week about the top row of a stadium. I will explain later, but first I will share some stadium experiences of my own.
As I said, we have season tickets to all of Oklahoma’s home games, and we usually have a ticket to the OU/Texas game in Dallas. Our seats in Norman aren’t VIP seats by any means, but they aren’t bad seats either. We have had the same seats for years and have gotten acquainted with the people who sit around us. However, this past spring OU made some improvements to the stadium and they moved our seats slightly. So now we are getting to know some new stadium neighbors. Our new seats aren’t any better than our old, but they aren’t any worse either. Frankly, I think one is lucky just to be inside the stadium. Home games are always a sellout.
I have a couple of memories of some not-so-good seats. Years ago, before we had season tickets, we bought a pair to a home game. It might have been my first game in Norman. I was trying to remember what team we played that day—Jerry thinks it was Iowa State. What I do remember is where the seats were located: on the very TOP row of the upper deck! It felt like we were in another time zone! Being that high up certainly gives you a different perspective on the game. That is probably why you will often see a shot of a position coach operating from the booth. He can see the big picture, often better that he can from the sideline. And he can see much more than I can from my regular seats on the 20-yardline.
On another occasion we followed the Sooners to College Station to watch them play Texas A&M. Every football fan should see a game at Kyle Field. And if you think it’s loud in Norman, you should sit with a stadium full of Aggies. They even practice yelling! But it’s a fun atmosphere, especially when your team is predicted to win. As happy (and confident) as I was, on this particular day things didn’t go so well. It started with our seats. They were almost on the top row, and the their upper deck is so steep! It was quite a hike to get to our row. I was gasping by the time I found my seat. On top of that, the Sooners had a bad day on the field. And I had a big, birds eye view of the whole debacle.
So all of this brings me back to what I read last week. My friend Ronda has a brother, Rick Renner, whom I have never met, but I follow on social media. He pastors a church in Russia, and has written several books, including Sparkling Gems From the Greek, a devotional book based on Greek words from the Bible. He does such a good job of painting word pictures, and I can always do better if I have a visual. Last week he posted a study on the word “clouds” from Hebrews 12:1.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (NIV)
This verse comes after the famous passage in Hebrews 11 known as “the roll call of the faithful,” a portrait of the saints who have gone before us. Renner says the word “clouds” describes the highest seats in the bleachers of a stadium. Those saints are sitting up there cheering us along. This description gave me an entirely different perspective on that verse. Those saints who have gone before us have a big picture view from their seats in the clouds. They know the final score. And they are there, cheering us on as we take our turn on the field.
Each of us has a finite amount of time, and for those of us who are Christians, our own unique position to play. The goal is to advance the Gospel, to move it toward the finish line. There are some who may be called to important positions such as coaches or quarterbacks. Others of us may be less significant. We may merely serve as water boys, but that water certainly is important to those who are doing the heavy work. As a team, as a part of the Church, we strive to carry the cause of Christ. I think of the words from the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers:
Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God:
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided,
All one Body we—
One in faith and Spirit,
My prayer is that I don’t fumble, that I don’t lose yards, that I can advance the ball. And when my time on the field is over, may I take my seat on the top row and cheer on the next generation.