Pastors, congregations mull sermon notes, Broncos’ passing game

It’s important to keep a sense of humor on Super Bowl Sunday, said the Rev. Edmundo Valera of St. Joseph Catholic Church. The Broncos have been in the prayers of Valera and his parishioners, including Trinity, left, and Jade Bellgardt.



David and Goliath probably won’t work, message-wise, since both teams are pretty evenly matched — Denver’s offense against Seattle’s defense.

Maybe something about the city of Enoch and living together in harmony? So… nah. There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, right? Especially on Super Bowl Sunday.

Friendship? Faithfulness? Obedience? There are a lot of possibilities for sermon topics on the day when the Denver Broncos play in the Super Bowl for the first time since January 1999. But the question is, will anyone be listening?

For regular, or even sporadic, church-goers, the temptation might be strong today to stay home and get started early on the nachos and pre-game.

“I would imagine attendance will be down a little bit,” said the Rev. Mark Fisher of Monument View Bible Church in Fruita. “But ours fluctuates anyway. It can vary 50 people from Sunday to Sunday depending on what weekend it is.”

Churches with early services might do OK. Monument View’s main Sunday service is at 10:45 a.m., allowing plenty of time to attend and get home to start the Velveeta melting in the Crock-Pot.

The Rev. Tom Barlament of Landmark Baptist Church said he doesn’t expect attendance to be down for the 11 a.m. service and he thinks most of the regulars will attend the 6 p.m. service.

“It’s different with the Broncos, obviously, and there will be people that want to watch,” Barlament said, adding that some of the church’s various Sunday School groups will get together to watch the game, relying on the gift of DVR post-6 p.m. service.

Some church-goers might avail themselves of Saturday night services, if their church offers them. The Rev. Timothy Storck, associate pastor of Lutheran Church and School of Messiah, said Thursday morning that he figured the 5 p.m. Saturday service would see a bump in attendance, as would the 8 a.m. Sunday service.

“The 10:30 (a.m. Sunday) is normally our bigger service, but I just think with people getting ready for the game, that won’t be the case this week,” Storck said. The poor man, it should be noted, is from Kirkland, Wash., and is a lifelong Seahawks fan “and right now my office is full of Bronco paraphernalia and plates and streamers and all kinds of things. It’s a little overwhelming.”

By now, old-fashioned debates over whether the faithful should even be watching the game on a Sunday have given way to an acknowledging that this sport and this game are important to people. Especially when the Broncos are playing.

This, the question of how to address it in a religious context, knowing that most people’s thoughts will be blue and orange even as they sit in the pews.

The Rev. Alane Currier Griggs of Crossroads United Methodist Church said her sermon today is titled “Empty Seat” and will address unity.

“We argue over distinctions sometimes,” she explained. “We compete in life and sometimes we’re happy with it and sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we make a little too big a deal about our distinctions, so let’s realize how we’re more alike than different. We’re all trying to transform the world here, so let’s not argue about the little stuff.”

But that’s not all. Her sermon will have a halftime, during which some men from the congregation will sing “Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life” and she will show puppy videos for the church’s own version of the Puppy Bowl.

The church also is participating in United in Orange (united inorange.org), in which United Methodist churches in Colorado and surrounding states compete with United Methodist Churches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho to see who can collect the most food and money for community food banks.

Other churches are using the Super Bowl as an opportunity for fellowship and community-building. Youth from American Lutheran and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran churches will meet at noon today for a paper football competition (with the folded, triangular paper footballs favored by bored students), said the Rev. Barbara Johnson of American Lutheran Church.

The winner of the middle school division will ultimately face off against the high school winner, Johnson said, and there will be pizza. Plus, the party will be done by 2:30 p.m. or so, “so people still have time to go home and get ready for the game.”

And those who aren’t quite as avid about football, Johnson said, will volunteer at Homeward Bound this evening, a good addition to the church’s participation in Souper Bowl of Caring. The church will collect donations for the Western Slope Center for Children today “because this year some of our members brought to my attention that there are statistics that suggest on Super Bowl weekend, there tends to be a rise in reports of domestic violence and in human trafficking around where the game is held,” Johnson explained. “So, that was on our minds this year.”

So, while Super Bowl Sunday can be used as an opportunity for fellowship and compassionate service, it’s also a time to simply acknowledge that life is good and among its joys is football.

Which is why, for the past few weeks, parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church have been praying for the Broncos.

“Before I give them the final blessing I just tell them, (the Broncos) are the home team, they’re playing, let’s pray for them,” said the Rev. Edmundo Valera. “Our parishioners, on a positive note, tend to be good about attending Mass on the day of the game, and they actually show up in team colors.”

(Speaking of team colors: A sewing group at Redlands United Methodist Church made an originally designed Broncos-theme stole for the Rev. Kerry McCormick, a Broncos super-fan, to wear today.)

As a religious leader, Valera said, it’s important to keep a sense of humor on Super Bowl Sunday.

“I told everyone that the Broncos are definitely going to win because even God is a fan,” Valera said. “So, they had this puzzled look on their faces, so I said, ‘Why else would God make the sunset orange and blue?’ ”


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