This really isn’t anything new – in fact it stretches all the way back to Jesus’ ministry and even further into our long Judaic tradition. The Disciples had to wrestle with it, after them the Apostles and a long line of struggling has ensued. In fact, as an idealistic 17 year old, enamoured and impassioned with my identity as a Canadian, I had my own challenges. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, as I suspect I have gotten ahead of myself, here’s one way it’s been described by those of us who live our faith through a Christian lens:

Thomas’ questions confront certainty
Wonder’s awe meets process’ boundary
May all who dream inspire us to creativity

(A Pres-bit|@wpgpres)

“be in the world, not of the world”

Being in the world allows us to see Creation’s beauty and also the role and impact we have as a species on one another and our environment. Being of the world does not – necessarily – afford that ability to critique, challenge and reframe. Being in the world invites us to care for all with whom we encounter … of the world might lead us to care only for those for whom we identify to the exclusion of others … It’s not necessarily easy and it’s certainly not a binary of either/or.

John's Book

John’s Book

The both/and – however – gets tricky. It’s even trickier as Christian inheritors of a western democratic way of looking at life. This ideological and philosophical point of view is difficult to acknowledge because Christianity has been intimately involved, even in complicit in its creation. Though some may frame Thomas’ doubting as a negative, I have always believed he best illustrates the need to embrace critical thinking, in order not to be lulled or deceived by the claims of faith or political agenda, dogma or doctrine. And – his model – leads to an uncomfortable acknowledgement that nationalism, patriotism, colonialism, and consumerism have (in many ways) both co-opted and implicated Christianity in ways that are very uncomfortable …

be in the world, not of the world …

It’s funny – therefore – how sport itself has often been at the centre of this struggle. For many cultures – the Greeks, Aztec, Mayan, Maasai (to mention only a few) – sport has allowed for an opportunity to explore non-violent ways to address political tensions that might lead, otherwise, to conflict and war. Pride in the grace of movement, the strategy of bodies entwining in intimate sport can even be found in the intention that is our current Olympic movement.

Unfortunately – as is the want when we are of the world – sport has been used to propagate division, oppress and judge. Sport has been used to distract – think of the Roman Coliseum and the power of the gladiator to divert attention – from the realities of politics bent on the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. And – in our own time – some would contend that sport has become a way to reinforce an unsustainable economic system, in which consuming overshadows an exploration of sustainability …

And so yesterday, as my heart ached for the Winnipeg Jets – a team that has done so much in four years – I realised I have once again found myself in this tension. This wee team in the larger NHL ocean of wealth and salaries that seem inconceivable, has experienced pain, hurt, internal division and a sense of renewal in the midst of turmoil. As all we do can be considered metaphor, the Jets’ journey can be explored as life’s reflection. Struggle and turmoil and moments of grace and beauty. Life in its many moments sometimes seems to glorify the individual, but then the sublime strength and coordination of a community can rise well above what its individual part might allow.

be in the world, not of the world …

Puck hovers
ice embracing blades await
In this moment
anticipation energises
potential abounds
in choices yet made

(A Pres-bit|@wpgpres)

Winnipeg Jets' Away Logo 1980s

Winnipeg Jets’ Away Logo 1980s
Image: James Joel

I also realise I may be rationalising my rediscovery of hometown pride. Even in loss, this team has reminded me that we can choose what success means in our lives – as the standing ovation in the midst of failure illustrates. The end of this NHL season for the Jets seems a helpful reminder that being in the world offers many faithful images and parallels. As a people of faith, we know that we are stronger when the circle is drawn wide. In a moment when sport is itself life’s metaphor – acknowledging that fickle cynicism always hovers – this team has created space for the individuals that inhabit this geography called Winnipeg and Manitoba to see themselves as connected. And – in this moment – I am reminded that the Gospel offers this particular in the world experience a universal invitation …