Stadium

Posted on November 1, 2010

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“I don’t know the scalping laws here.  I don’t want to go to Italian jail on the 3rd day of vacation.”

If that quote sounds like a gigantic cop-out on something totally awesome, you’d be right.  That’s me in Milan, Italy, standing outside the San Siro stadium with my brother, turning down a chance to see a U2 concert we stumbled upon because I’m afwaid of the scwalping waws in Euwope.  In the Hall of Fame of Missed Opportunities, this one has it’s own exhibit, right next to “Pardon Me, Hot Girl All Alone On the Train, Would You Like To See My Pokemon Cards?”

I admit, I blew it with U2. I have no excuse.  If that moment were an ocean mammal, instead of lassoing it like a dolphin to ride through an aquatic paradise for the thrill of a lifetime, I let it beach itself, like a disoriented whale, on the hot sand of my indecisiveness.  I should have been hauled before a grand jury of thrill-seekers and commanded to explain my general timidity.**

Travis Pastrana: Andrew Larson, on behalf of our corporate sponsors Mountain Dew and Electrolux, you’ve been called here to explain your actions on July 6th, 2009.

Sir Edmund Hillary– In our file it says that you had a chance, while backpacking through Europe, to potentially attend a U2 concert, and that you spurned this chance due to some unnameable fear.  This is highly troubling.

Me– It wasn’t due to some unnameable fear.  That’s not true.

Darice Bannock– We beg to differ, mon.

Me– Darice?  From ‘Cool Runnings’?

Pastrana– He may be a fictional character, but he also became an Olympic bobsledder in a country that has more bananas than snowflakes.  He knows about risks.

Darice– Too true, my brother.  Our mind-reading technology shows that right here, at the moment of decision, you were gripped by the irrational fear that you would accidentally buy tickets from an undercover Interpol agent.  What?

Me– Not true!  My brother’s leg hurt!  We were trying to get back to the train station.

Sir Edmund Hillary– We also have videotape of you half-heartedly walking back and forth in front of the stadium, playing at making up your mind when, in our transcript of your thoughts at that exact moment, you wondered how to say “Excuse me, have you ever seen ‘TaleSpin’?” in Italian.

Pastrana–  I’ve jumped out of an airplane without a parachute before, no problem.  But THAT just blew my mind.

Me– I don’t know the laws in Italy.  It was our third day, I didn’t want to ruin anything.  I was being wise.

Hillary–  Very disappointing.

Darice– There’s some other stuff here if you go back farther… I’m going to bring it up on the big screen.

Me– Hey, quit messing with that.

Darice–  Looks like you buying several Goo Goo Dolls CD’s…

Me– I’ll just be on my way now.

Darice- and watching Gilmore Girls…?

Pastrana–  This one looks interesting.  Are those tears?

Darice– The monitor says that this is while he’s watching the end of ‘The Guardian’.

Hillary– ‘The Guardian’? 

Me–  It’s a good movie!

Hillary–  The one where Kevin Costner swims?

Me–  He cut his own rope!!  JUST TO SAVE ASHTON KUTCHER!!

Pastrana– That moment was definitely not brought to you by Mountain Dew.

Darice– Please hand over your man card.

Me– I hate you guys.

 **I realized after I wrote this that this that this section bears a more than passing resemblance to the Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life. It further proves one of Solomon’s aphorisms from Ecclesiastes:  “There is nothing new under the sun, because Albert Brooks wrote it all.”

So adventure and I have an uneasy relationship.  I love adventures, just as long as I’ve planned them, and they’re expected, and they don’t happen anyplace that’s way outside my comfort zone.  My life motto is, ‘carpe diem, unless I wasn’t given 2 weeks to prepare for it or my contact lenses are dry that day.’

That unease is amplified by the pressure I put on myself to live the adventure rhetoric that sometimes bubbles up from mainstream Christianity.  This takes the form of books with titles like,  “Jesus:  The Great Adventure”, “God’s Electrifying Journey for You”, or sermons with enough excitement hype that Jesus sounds like the new roller-coaster at Kings Island.  How am I supposed to say ‘yes’ to something like God’s best life now if I say no to The Edge in Milan?  I must really be hopeless.       

In the book of Acts, Luke records the story of Philip teaching the Ethiopian eunuch about Jesus on the road to Gaza.  Luke’s opening lines of the story are these:

As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.”  So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia.

The jewel in this passage is “So he started out, and he met…”  As readers, we make the mistake of assuming, because we know that Philip is going to evangelize the Ethiopian, that Philip knows he’ll evangelize the Ethiopian.  But this isn’t necessarily true.  In Acts God moves missionaries around like Peyton Manning running the no-huddle.  Paul, you get over here by Macedonia.  Barnabas, go in motion to the left.  No, over here, by John Mark.  Philip, split out wide on the road to Gaza.  Missions on two, on two.  Set!

Philip, in all likelihood, has no clue what’s going to happen once he sets out for Gaza.  Nothing in the text suggests that God lets him in on some mind-blowing plan He has for Philip’s journey.  Will it be exciting or boring?  Will he gain worldly fame or toil in anonymity?  Philip doesn’t know.  He only knows that he’s supposed to get on the road and go.  So he started out.

Likewise, Jesus promises his followers nothing about the journey, and certainly nothing of an exciting life.  He promises us no headlines, no acclaim, no non-stop, adrenaline-soaked action.  What he promises us is the ‘so-he-started-out’ life modeled by Philip.  It is a life along our own Gaza roads, the ones God has called us each to individually, hand in hand with Him, with no promises about what happens along on the way.  We know only that He is the one who sent us, who goes with us, and who will be there at the end.

“So he started out..” is the set-up.  The payoff is in the second part, “… and he met…”  God’s plan for Philip’s journey included an encounter with a God-seeker.  Consequently Philip experienced a unique opportunity to participate in the building of God’s Kingdom.  His willingness to start out gave God the forward motion to let Philip meet the eunuch.  For us, it’s the same.  The ‘so-he-started-out’ life leads to ‘and-he-met’ moments that God provides for us along the way.  The accumulation of these moments, over the course of our lives, constitutes the truly adventurous Christian life.

This “so he started out, and he met” dynamic is at the core of our Christian adventure.  God graciously calls us to the road and asks us to start out.  Caring nothing for the stereotypical definitions of adventure provided by the world or mega-church Christianity, he instead supplies us with his own: unlimited and-he-met chances.  Each pilgrim’s progress, like Christian headed to the Celestial City, touches some part of this world, and through each touch God graciously accomplishes His ultimate purposes.  Philip understood this.  So he started out.  And he met.

Regardless, I still rue the missed U2 concert.  I asked my brother about it later and he just rolled his eyes, said “Yeah, man….” and trailed off in reverie.  It’s too bad, too.  I checked and it looks like scalping is legal in Italy.  I wouldn’t have gone to jail at all.

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