e-letter 4/5/19

Much to my disappointment, the Duke Blue Devils ended their quest for that One Shining Moment last Sunday night after a close game with Michigan State. (I can hear all of you Carolina and Michigan State fans cheering!) I am excited to continue to watch the tournament, and to see the Cinderella stories of Texas Tech and Auburn play out in particular. It will certainly be a fun Final Four!
In the midst of my Duke Basketball fanatics, I have found that I can be a little… let’s say proud, of my basketball team. This was true almost immediately after I was “converted” to the sport, after watching Duke play Indiana University in Cameron Indoor my first year of seminary. I bleed that true, Duke blue, and fiercely defend my team against all detractors. I will be a Blue Devil fan for life.  
But this pride in my team is not as good natured as I would like to pretend it is. Often, when I am reminded of how much other folks *hate* Duke basketball, I think to myself, “I can’t help it that we’re just better.” Early on, these thoughts shocked me, but I realized recently that they are actually teaching me something about the great, big mess of sin in my life.  
How many times do we think that we are better than other people? How many times do we think we are “above” certain tasks? How many times do we silently judge those less fortunate, or those in harsh situations? How much do we let our pride in our own convictions split our families, our churches, our lives
That’s the thing about my quiet, insidious Duke basketball thoughts — they remind me of a bigger problem: my pride. I am not the center of the universe, much to my disappointment. Even more so, our Jesus calls me out of my own pride into sacrificial humility. Jesus does not care that Duke is the far superior basketball team and is dissatisfied that I imagine that I am better than others. Jesus invites me to follow him, taking up my cross and denying myself. This self-denial begins by admitting that other basketball teams deserve that One Shining Moment but doesn’t stop there. It engages my relationships, my work, my spiritual life, and how I serve others.  
This Sunday in worship we will hear about the biggest symbol of Christ’s self-denial: the cross. Jesus went much further than any of us are willing to go — suffering a horrifying death on a cross, that we might be truly redeemed and restored in relationship to God. This means I must die to my especially prideful indulgences (okay, even my Duke basketball fanatics) and serve others with the same spirit Christ had.   This is hard work, but we are lucky that the Spirit of Christ goes with us on that journey.  
See you Sunday,
Pastor Allee