I regularly feed the sports section to the recyclable bin upon fetching the paper from the stoop, but this was deemed front-page news by the powers that be, so, dutifully, I read: "Lindros hospitalized with a concussion."
For those of you for whom Philadelphia is not the hub of the universe, that would be Flyers superstar Eric Lindros, injury-plagued center in a game blasé about injury and played by gap-toothed men who view injury as the cost of doing business. Internal hemorrhaging, a punctured lung last season ... As I write, the 27-year-old Lindros is a reluctant guest at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, having landed there after skating through disorientation, migraine headaches, and bouts of vomiting between periods. The NHL playoffs begin next week, and if the Flyers make it beyond the first round, Mr. Lindros might play again this year.
There's fodder for a dozen parables here, if you have a mind to it. There are tales of self-interested agents and vainglorious coaches and bottom-line bosses in the front office, but I wish to speak to none of these. For what captures my imagination this day is something far more uplifting, and "my soul is stirred by a noble theme," whose echoes reverberate through the Holy Bible from at least the days of David and his band of 30.
Ah, those were men; whence cometh their equal!-David is holed up in the cave of Adullam, the Philistine garrison desecrating his beloved Bethlehem. Dreaming out loud, he blurts in the presence of his ragtag comrades, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!" And we are told that three of his coterie-not for a Stanley Cup but for the love of their master-forthwith break through enemy lines, at risk of life and limb, to satisfy their captain's whim (2 Samuel 23:13-17).
It's a shame and it's all backwards, but when God wants to illustrate to a somnolent people what he means by go-for-broke loyalty and exertion in his service, he has to adduce examples from the commonplace of horizontal creaturely duties. You want to show what "love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul" means? Send for the Recabites, Jeremiah; sit them down and make them drink wine. Of course they will not. For they have made vows to their human father that drink would never pass their lips. Jeremiah writes in chapter 35,"'Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?' declares the Lord. 'Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and his command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather's command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.'"
Os Guinness, in Fit Bodies Fat Minds, chooses to develop just one prong of the commandment Jesus called the great one, and praises the virtue of "going mad for God"- the kind of "madness" that is to total mind devotion what martyrdom is to total body devotion. Jesus, Mr. Guinness notes, was thought a lunatic (see chapter 3 of Mark). Paul the apostle in chapter 26 of Acts is said by the governor of Judea to be "out of his mind." And here is raised an interesting subject for speculation, in an election season or any season: Where would a man be led today who loved the Lord with all his mind? Is there any telling to what dangerous terrain the Spirit would lead such a one?
There is telling, of course. It leads to the cross- and to all the precursors of it that Paul catalogs in chapter 11 of Second Corinthians. He may well have added to this list concussions and migraines and punctured lungs and vomiting.
How do we fill in this blank: "I consider my life worth nothing to myself if only I may _________" (Acts 20:24)? Are we like Eric Lindros, who knows the long-term downsides of his choice to pursue the object of his passion?
Paul has a method to his "madness." What some may do to please manipulative patrons and a fickle public, he does for a Patron who is at once kinder than the Flyers' owner and more powerful than the Recabites' father, someone whose highest glory is always your best good, someone who offers a crown finer and more certain than a Stanley Cup. Eric Lindros, licking his wounds while his team competes for the Cup, is hoping for another season; you, child of God, are guaranteed one. But think not too hard of our Philadelphia boy. I see him as a tragedy. And I see him as an inspiration.