I gave up about four minutes into the third quarter. Why not? The Patriots were down by 25 points and no team, in the fifty-one-year history of the Super Bowl, had ever come back from more than a 10-point deficit. In my mind it was over and I didn’t care to watch my team go down to their inevitable defeat over the next hour and a half.
So, I went upstairs and settled into the show my wife was watching in our bedroom. Thankfully, I turned on my laptop after about hour later. Because when I did I discovered that while I had given up, the Patriots hadn’t! There were two minutes left in the game, the Patriots had the ball and they were just 8 points down. I rushed downstairs to turn the game back on! And I watched as Brady led them down the field, and after a pass interference penalty took the ball to the one yard line. White scored on the next play with fifty some seconds to go. But they needed a two point conversion to tie. No problem, with three receivers lined up to the right Brady threw back to the left and Danny Amendola caught the ball and broke the plane of the goal line for the tie. After winning the coin toss for the overtime period the Patriots, once again methodically went down the field and won the game on another two-yard run from White. It was far and away the greatest comeback win in football history and it won’t be topped soon if ever … and I almost missed it!
There are probably a hundred, maybe a thousand applications to what I just shared with you. There are stories of congregations that were down to seven people in worship that came back and became thriving centers of ministry again because of a decision that was made, or a leader who had new vision. There are stories of people with significant illness where all seemed lost, and then inexplicably a new treatment is introduced ─ as a last-ditch effort ─ prayer is offered and the illness responds to treatment and health is restored. There are stories of individuals whose lives are a mess. They have burned every bridge and their families are well beyond tough love efforts to help them. And one day they show up at the door cleaned up and whole. There are a hundred exceptions to the regular story and this Sunday’s game brings us to the remembrance again that just because it has never happened doesn’t mean it can’t.
The caution of course is that most of the time it doesn’t. A miracle is a miracle because it is not the norm. So most of the time when teams are down by 25 points in the big game they lose…usually by 35! Most of the time when churches have dropped down to an unsustainable place in worship attendance, they close. Most of the time when the doctor tells us we have a terminal illness, we die. And my faith is such that it does not insist on God performing miracles in order to be God. I am so grateful for the ways that God works in the midst of the normal course of events unfolding. I am so grateful that God is a God who leads us through the trials, the deaths, the losses with grace and love, and the ability to move through the most painful experiences of life not so much around them. I believe in miracles, I have seen miracles, but I don’t require God to act in miraculous ways for me to be a person of faith. My faith is in the presence of God and the grace of God, the incarnation of God into every circumstance, AND in resurrection, the reality of God’s love that wins no matter what!
I’m glad I didn’t miss the end of the game Sunday. I’m happy I got to see that amazing comeback and win for my team. I celebrate those extraordinary moments in life when miracles occur, but more than that, more than any of that, I am so thankful that God is consistently love and forever grace in every moment and experience of life.