Bracket Busters, Underdogs…and the Cross

The Madness has begun. For some of us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year–that is, the NCAA basketball tournament, when the buzzer beaters and underdog stories come out in full force, and we watch as our beloved brackets fall apart in front of our very eyes.

More than 40 million people fill out more than 70 million tournament brackets each year in America, and that’s just among those that are entered in contests, like the Tournament Challenge group that we have at Shelby Crossings. Even the president picks a bracket each year–and in case you missed the unveiling of his picks, he chose Kansas to go all the way to win this year’s championship.

What I enjoy the most about the NCAA Tournament each year is watching all the bracket-busting upsets, as the lower seeded teams go head to head with their more highly touted and higher seeded rivals. That’s what makes the tournament the most exciting couple of weeks in sports for me, when the Cinderellas get to go to the dance, and when David takes out his sling and slays the giant Goliath.
Every year, we get to watch dramatic scenes on the court that look like they came straight out of of one of my favorite movies, Hoosiers, where the little school from the small town goes to the big city and, against all odds, knocks off the big boys. There’s something about the underdog story that draws our attention, especially as followers of Christ, and especially at this time of year.
Which brings us to Palm Sunday this week, and Easter the next. The whole history of God’s work in Scripture involves Him using the “foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27); from having a shepherd boy defeat a giant warrior, to bringing the King of kings into the world by way of a poor, unwed teenage girl, to bringing salvation to the world through that King by way of the least likely place, an old rugged cross usually reserved for the worst of humankind.
Certainly that cross was not foolish, any more than the man who died on it, but it sure seemed that way to a world that just didn’t get it, because it was looking for wisdom and strength, not foolishness and weakness. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Cor. 1:25)
The good news for us all is this: instead of using the wise, the mighty and the noble God continually and conspicuously chooses to use the foolish, the weak, the base, the useless, the unknown and the nobodies to accomplish His will on the earth. And that means He’s not looking just for the #1 seeds to do His work; He uses ordinary folks like you and me. Sometimes He chooses the least likely to succeed to do His will, so that in the end it is He who is glorified through the process.
I hope you enjoy the tournament this weekend, and the next few weeks, if you’re one to watch those kinds of things. More than that, I pray that no matter how messed-up your brackets may be, you’ll find your joy and your security in the cross of Christ, the demonstration of God’s love for us, and the foolishness of God by which we have eternal salvation through Him.
What a joy it is to be your pastor. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
–Pastor Ken