As the bells pealed loud and clear one crisp autumn Sunday the faithful came quickly, filling the stadium for the weekly gathering. In their brightly colored regalia, holding icons and banners, they took to the stands in an orderly fashion. It was once again time to worship at the alter of the Team Spirit.
It was a particularly joyous day. A buzz had gone through the town that there would be a guest speaker this day. Everyone hoped it would be the one they had waited for these many months, but no one dared utter the name for fear of jinxing it. As the stands quickly filled, a wave of excitement raced through the crowd in anticipation of the rousing strains of the band striking up the opening chords of the call to worship.
As the cheerleaders took to the field, their uniforms spelling out the name of the saviour in capital letters the worshippers rose to their feet in reverent praise of the blessing about to be bestowed upon them.
Striding purposefully onto the field and mounting the podium, Pastor Montana cut a dashing figure, his slight limp reminding the crowd of his selfless dedication to the holiness of The Game. He raised his hands to the heavens and all could see his lips moving in silent supplication and thanks. Many were moved to tears.
As the buzz faded he looked about and smiled. “I am so very grateful to have you all here today once again,” he intoned into the microphone, “Praise be and glory in the highest. Another touchdown for Jesus!”
The crowd went wild, hooting and shouting praise. He motioned for calm. “My friends, it is a special day today. I am honored to announce that we have a very special guest today who has graciously made time to be here to deliver today’s sermon.”
Again the crowd was on their feet, their excitement more than they could contain. The word on the street was true, the one they had hoped for, indeed prayed for was here. Their prayers had been answered.
Pastor Montana continued. “We will open the service with a hymn. You all know the words. Sing along, please.”
The organ began, and the band on the field responded as the worshippers rose and broke into song.
“Glory be, glory be, a Hail Mary pass, then a touchdown please. The game and the quest, we toil for the best, the blood will be rife, drop kick us Jesus through the goal posts of life…”
As the hymn wound down there was a resounding amen and everyone sat down again. Pastor Montana bowed his head for a moment in reflection and then spoke into the microphone.
“My friends, without further adieu, I give you the man you’ve all been waiting for. The great, the only, John the Maddening!”
The roar that filled the crowd as the adored one trotted onto the field and up to the podium was deafening. The crowd were beside themselves. Without a word, John raised his arms, fingers extended, indicating a touchdown. Again the crowd went wild. He grinned broadly and leaned into the microphone. “Praise be! Glory in the highest!”
When the roar had died down he put on a serious look and began. “My fellow worshippers, I am so very proud to be here today to share your joy and to join you in praise of Jesus and the divine game.”
Murmurs of assent ran through the stands. “For what are we, if not followers of the Way?” He looked meaningfully at the crowd. “My friends, we are the ball, Jesus is the wide receiver and God is the quarterback. Amen!”
Erupting in enthusiast applause, the crowd shouted his name, interspersed with calls for sainthood and tributes of everlasting love and adoration. John led them in another hymn, the marching band doing an elaborate routine that ended with them in a cross formation, drawing yet more applause from the stands.
The remainder of the service proved a big hit, and Pastor Montana and John thanked the attendees and prepared them for the game to follow.
“Thank you all again for being here, my fellow travellers,” Pastor Montana intoned. “As soon as we clear the field the game will begin. As you know, we will be playing Satan’s Army today, may the best team win!”
The crowd erupted into enthusiastic chanting. “Death to evil, doomed to fail. Satan’s Army, back to hell!” It was yet another Sunday in the Church of the One True Religion.