By Fr Ben Maas
Growing up, I loved sports. I still do. Despite having played a multitude of sports from an early age, I never rose to the level where watching and reviewing game film was prescribed. The most reflection that I can recall was when my tennis coach recorded me playing and had me watch the video with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” (take a look at the man in the mirror AND MAKE A CHANGE) playing in the background.
Whether it is finding areas for growth following an impressive win or moments of encouragement after a deflating loss, I can see the benefit in the revisiting. I sometimes wish we had game film of our lives as a whole, and sometimes I most certainly don’t. I am sure there are some “plays” we’d like to erase immediately, but much of our game tape would provide opportunity for growth, for change, for better understanding, for healing and reconciliation. I think we’d see more clearly where we might have unintentionally hurt someone or misunderstood someone else and been wounded ourselves. We might also see where we listened poorly, acted hastily, and missed an opportunity to help or to provide care. Now, please hear me. I am not talking about fixating upon and beating ourselves up over past actions, which we cannot change, but living a more examined and reflective life.
While we may not have the game tape at our disposal, we do have instruments within our faith tradition to look back and ahead and to recalibrate our lives. The church’s greatest resource may be our common worship. Every Sunday morning, we gather and look at our lives through the lens of God’s redemptive love story. How are we bending toward that story? How do we see God’s hand at work in our lives? Where are we like the characters in the story struggling to understand, embrace, or act upon God’s love?
Through the creed, we proclaim our truth. Through prayer, we invite God into the parts of our collective lives that need healing. With the intention of looking more closely and gratefully, we give thanks for the blessings of our lives.
Then we enter a part of the Eucharist that I used to regard as heavy or guilt inducing, the Confession of Sin. Now I see it very much like that game tape. A chance to look back and reflect on where we missed the mark, what we left undone, and how we would like to play differently. Then we are reminded in the absolution that that game is over, the score is again 0-0, and the future is filled with possibility.
From there, we are bid the reconciling peace of God and invited to share that peace with one another, most importantly with anyone with whom we are out of step. Then we both express our gratitude for all we have been given and direct our lives toward that giver of life by offering our gifts. The service culminates with us coming forward to receive the grace of Christ’s body and blood to sustain us as we go out to live a new more intentional life.
As we start a new program year, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of our weekly opportunity to “study the film” and to step out onto the field ready to more perfectly execute grace and love.
- Curious to learn more about the Episcopal worship service and the significance of each part? Click here for an extremely well-written guide published by the Diocese of Olympia.
Cover Photo: Fr Ben serves in a pickup tennis match at Shrine Mont during the Saint James’ Parish Retreat in 2016.