On Sunday I watched Super Bowl 50 like millions of others in our nation and across the world. A defensively charged game, many found the Championship Game a little more dull than normal. Our nation prefers long homers over pitching duels and hat tricks over sound saves. For some reason we ascribe exciting to offense and points, not to defense.
As always, the Super Bowl dominated social media the days before, the day of, and the days after the most-watched game in all of sports. And for another year, I witnessed at least one picture or meme, pictured above, seeking to set the same standards on the Super Bowl onto Christian Sunday worship. Today my goal is to set these two events side and by side and see whether we can place the Super Bowl and the Church’s Gathering together and compare them to one another.
We must look at the ontology of each of these events. Ontology deals with the nature of being. It seeks to uncover the heart and essence of an object, event, etc. The Super Bowl represents the pinnacle of the National Football League, it is the culminating game of a hard-fought season. The team that wins will be crowned with honor and one or more players may find fame. However, come the next year, another team will likely be crowned champion.
From a viewers standpoint, the Super Bowl marks the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All day may be spent in preparation for the kick-off. Money will not only be spent towards food and drink, but also towards decorations and memorabilia. This game will provide an adrenaline rush which will result in exclamations such as whooping and hollering to boos and gasps.
Sunday is the day the Church gathers to worship her risen Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. This day is set aside every week, as Sunday is the day Jesus resurrected from death. Through his life, culminating in his death, resurrection, and ascension, He reclaims this earth as His own, conquering sin, death, and suffering and establishes His reign, therefore His kingdom, on His creation.
In the presence of God the Creator, her worship is often filled with awe and reverence alongside joy, celebration, and thanksgiving. The Church gathers and through the celebration of the Word and Table the Kingdom of God is actualized and realized in this time and space. Her worship is both historical and eschatological. If her history is her roots, then her eschatology is the soil.
So let us consider the similarities between the Super Bowl and the Church’s Sunday morning worship. Celebration may be found in both of these events. In fact, they may even be primary themes in these events. Both find food a critical part of their celebration. Food is an important similarity sense food is a symbol of hospitality and gathers people around a common idea, person, or thing.
Now let us consider the differences between these two events. First, the Super Bowl is temporary. It comes and goes, providing no foundation for the life of any involved in its creation and execution. The Church finds her existence in the life of an eternal Triune God. Her eschatology, the Church as preparation for Christ’s consummation of all things and the fulfillment of Christ’s redemptive work, allow the Church to be an assembly of people in time, yet can see beyond time.
The Super Bowl finds its basis in competition. Rivalry drives sales and viewers. The Church’s worship finds its basis in the relationship between God the Creator and His Creation. God calls His people together in love, and His people respond in love. The difference between these two events is stark.
This post should certainly only be viewed as a brief introduction towards understanding whether the Super Bowl and the Church’s worship can inform one another and have the same expectations placed on each of them. The two events are ontologically incompatible and therefore not worthy to be discussed as comparable. What are your thoughts? Can the Church’s worship be informed by the Super Bowl?
Jason Palmer is the Administrator of TalkingWorship.com. Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry with a Worship Arts Major and Music Minor. He has lead worship for evangelical churches for 7 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.