January 13 – Road to the Super Bowl, Hail Mary Edition

Hail Mary

Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, likes to throw Hail Mary passes, and he does so successfully more than any other quarterback in the league. In fact during the past twelve months, Rodgers has thrown more successful Hail Mary passes than all the other quarterbacks in the league combined.

Rodgers’ most recent Hail Mary came at the end of the first half of last Sunday’s Wildcard Playoff Game against the New York Giants. It was really nice.

Calling a time-running-out, desperation long pass into the end zone a Hail Mary began after a December 28, 1975 NFL playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, when Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach (a Roman Catholic) told the press following his  game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

This coming Sunday afternoon the Packers will be in Dallas for a Divisional Playoff game against the Cowboys. I’m hoping they win, and wouldn’t mind another successful Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb or any other of the Packer receivers.

Becky and I and our kids lived an hour north of Lambeau Field on the north shore of Green Bay for five years. Our enthusiasm for the Packers has not waned much since we left the far north, somewhat to the chagrin of the Steelers fans when we served in Western PA for ten years and Eagles fans for the past nine years.

Yes, I’d really like to see the Packers win on Sunday.  But I don’t think Mary cares. Nor does her Son.

No one knows who first said, “Everything happens for a reason,” but apparently both Albert Schweitzer and Marilyn Monroe were fond of the phrase. Rick Warren adds a spiritual tint to the saying by suggesting that everything has a God-given purpose. Maybe I ought to agree with Rick Warren, but I am not sure I do.  I mean, the purpose of throwing a Hail Mary pass is to win a football game you probably would not otherwise win.  Is that’s God’s purpose?

As a Bible-believing Christian, I know that for those who love God, all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).  We can include an Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb Hail Mary among all things. As a Reformed Christian, I know that God is the author of all things: “God is the first cause, and in relationship to him everything happens unchangeably and infallibly” (Westminster Confession 6.2 on Providence.) Seriously, the sovereign God was the author of that end of the first half pass at Lambeau last week.  He cannot not be.

But I don’t think Mary cares about the Packers’ Super Bowl run. Nor does her Son.

We Confessional Christians have been given such a gift. The Confession helps us know how to pray for the outcome of a football game, which is not at all.

Westminster’s Chapter on Providence continues, “some things must inevitably happen; others may or may not happen depending on the voluntary intentions of the agents involved; and some things do not have to happen but may, depending on other conditions.”

A successful Hail Mary in a NFL playoff game is in the category of things that “do not have to happen but may.”

The “good” to which all things work together is not my team’s Super Bowl win, it is the glory of God in the election to salvation of the men and women he has known and loved in Christ. The things that must inevitably happen by the sovereign will of God are those things that contribute to the coming of the Kingdom – to the doing of justice, to the loving of mercy, and to walking humbly with our God.

That Sunday afternoon in December, 1975, a more theologically sophisticated and astute Roger Staubach might have closed his eyes as he launched that pass to Drew Pearson and prayed that the voluntary intentions of the agents involved in the play be to the glory of God alone and to God’s purposes in Christ Jesus for the redemption of the whole world.  Instead he said a Hail Mary.  I don’t think Mary cared whether Drew Pearson caught the pass or not, nor did her Son.

In fact, I think Aaron Rodgers got things right last year when he said, “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome (of a game)…He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”

I’m hoping the Packers beat the Cowboys on Sunday, but I think I’ll have to depend more on Aaron Rodger’s arm and Randall Cobb’s hands than on Mary’s grace – or her Son’s.

See you Sunday