From the Rev: Firsts
Firsts. This season, the Colorado Rapids will encounter many firsts – moments where the team and organization find themselves as never before. For example, 2014 is the first season that the team is being coached by a former player (Pablo Mastroeni). This past Saturday’s game was the first point for the new head coach, it was also the first time that two homegrown players started the same match, as well as the first professional start by Goalkeeper John Berner, and more.
Many times, the firsts in our lives are memorable for one reason or another – first kiss, first girlfriend, first job, first child, etc. The same is true in terms of our faith – when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ it is a first – a rebirth, likened to a first love. Do you remember your first love? This metaphor has stood throughout time as a reminder, as a question of accountability.
In Revelation 2:4, Jesus is speaking to the church in Ephesus and he comments on the state of the church – lamenting that the church has “left [their] first love.” In leaving one’s first love, priorities become askew. Secondary things with secondary importance start to replace and attempt to fill the void – but they are empty and unfulfilling. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping.
The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication.
It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens?
Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made.
. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.
—C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Eerdmans, 1994), p. 280.
As a chaplain, much of my role is to remind people of the first love – the love of God to humankind. That God would sacrifice himself and die to reconcile all of humanity – that even from the beginning of time, God has been moving toward you and me to love us, to restore relationship with us – that is a first love worth dedicating one’s life to. So many times in professional sports, there are secondary things that attempt to replace the first thing – whether it is fame or fortune or pleasure. In the end, these things, found wanting can leave one emaciated and destitute.
What does this mean for the professional athlete, the coach, or even the fan in the stand – all of the passion and love of the game will eventually be found un-gratifying to the deep longings of the soul if the first love, the first thing (God) is not first. But with God first, then all other things find their proper place of importance and can be enjoyed to the fullest.
Rev. Brad Kenney