It started innocently enough with a text inviting my boys (in Minnesota) and brother (in Washington D.C.) to watch the Packers vs. Bears rivalry on Sunday Night Football. It ended with an irreverent riff on football, faith and family.
What the Gruen boys exchanged by text is too good to keep to ourselves. So we pass it on, trusting that you will not take yourself or your faith too seriously, but that you’ll laugh at the connections we make with the Greatest Story Ever Told. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ come-back-from-the-dead appearance in the second half of SNF—and his come-from-behind 24-23 win over the Bears—are both one for the ages.
With the legendary Aaron Rodgers down-and-out for the first half with an injured left knee, the leader-less, lifeless Packers get buried 17-0 by halftime. I give up hope and turn off TV. Then FOMO sets in. The fear of missing out gets the better of me. Half an hour later, I turn the TV back on. Hoping against hope, I witness something incredible: Rodgers is on the field, after all. I text my faith to the Gruen boys: “He is alive, risen from the dead.”
What follows are their replies, edited for clarity; they indicate our crazy love for the Packers and a zany faith that some love to spoof.
Brother Bill: Your Dad had all but given up his secular faith in the Packers when Rodgers was carted off to the locker room (Golgotha). But when he arose from the tomb in the second half, he became a believer—no longer a doubting Dietrich.
Son Eric: Sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya was the first to arrive at the tomb-like locker room to check on his injury. Lo and behold, the door to the medical exam room was rolled open; it was empty inside. Only his white linen knee bandages remained there on the table. And so Tafoya went out to tell the Packer faithful: “He is not here, he is risen!” But the people did not believe her at first, saying she’d seen only a vision.
Eric adds: And on the third quarter he rose from the dead.
Me: In bodily form Rodgers was back on the field of play, and at game’s end, he made several post-resurrection appearances with the media (gospel writers). He then ascended into the Packer Hall of Faith along with St. Vincent.
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Son Mark injects a word of sanity and sobriety: There’s a more rational explanation for the so-called miracle that occurred: pain killers.
Eric: The holy spirit of Vince Lombardi moves in mysterious ways, often taking the form of pain killers.
Bill: You boys are too funny, even blasphemous.
Eric: Blasphemous yes, but thanks to the offensive line’s improved second-half performance protecting Rodgers, this riff on Rodgers is not at all sack-religious.
That about wraps up our rap on the Packers’ game from last Sunday. Rodgers is not inVINCEable. He will get sacked and knocked out sometimes. Still, in Rodgers we trust. He made believers of us all last Sunday night. Never again will I turn off the game; with Rodgers all things are possible. By faith, the life-less Packers come back to life. With Vince Lombardi inspiring them, Aaron Rodgers leading them, and the Packer faithful cheering them on, America’s Team will finish well.
I hope to finish well with all that my family and faith calls on me to do, before I pack it all in.
And that sets up my sermon for this Sunday: “What good is a broken heart?” Some outcomes will break our hearts this year. Not just when the Pack breaks our hearts and we turn off the TV, but when life gets hard and we turn off God. God uses broken hearts to draw unto himself all people—heart-broken Packer backers and Bears fans alike.
Dietrich Gruen, from Madison, is Bridge Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Columbus.