A long time ago, much longer than I care to admit, I played high school football. I was big and strong, but not very fast and not very good with my hand, so that meant I was an offensive tackle.
It’s not a position anyone gets excited about, not even offensive tackles themselves. They never, or almost never, win the Heisman Trophy, get endorsement deals from Nike, or have fan clubs and internet sites created to track their careers. Offensive tackles names are called only if something goes wrong: if they get slapped with an illegal motion penalty or get caught holding while trying to protect the quarterback who dropped-back to pass. The spotlight shines on the players who handle the ball, not to the linemen.
Let this jealous former offensive tackle remind you of something, though: there wouldn’t be any star halfbacks, if offensive tackles didn’t do their jobs. Any running back with a thousand yard season has some banged-up, bruised-up linemen to thank.
But, it’s also true that even the best tackle can only hold a block for so long, and he needs a fast back to hit the hole while it is open. So, as hard as it is for me to admit it, the guys dancing in the end zone, doing Gatorade commercials, and going to Disneyworld after the Super Bowl do matter.
Individual football players matter. Each one needs to play his position as well as he can. Every person on the team counts. And, no quarterback or running back can win games by himself, no matter how dazzlingly talented. Winning requires a team.
It’s true in football. It’s true in life. We can’t live very well or very long on our own and alone. We need community. We all need encouragement, wisdom, guidance, help, and support we can’t provide for ourselves. We need neighbors, friends, colleagues, and the members of our faith-communities. They need us, too.
Followers of Jesus need the church, because, at its best (it isn’t always), the church keeps telling us the good news, which is that God loves as much as Jesus said and showed. Annie Dillard once said:
I have no problem with miracles. I'm a long way from agnosticism, and no longer even remember how a lot of things that used to be problems for me were. But that isn't the question I struggle with. To me, the real question is, How in the world can we remember God?
In life’s crushing busyness, the church helps us remember God and the reality of God’s love. In moments of painful shame and guilt, the church recalls for us that judgment is not God's last word, but that mercy is. In seasons of despair, when we can’t see beyond the difficulties we face, the church points us toward the hope that is always rushing toward us from an Easter-future.We’re not meant to live alone and on our own, and we don’t have to do so.