Faith Matters: Don't envy earthly splendor

September 7, 2013 

At 7 p.m. Sept. 7, 1979 -- 34 years ago today -- ESPN (originally short for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) started broadcasting on cable television.

About 30,000 households tuned in.

In part, a fired hockey announcer used a $9,000 credit card advance to get things rolling.

Someone only plugged in the cable connecting ESPN to its satellite about five minutes before the network launched.

ESPN first specialized in Australian rules football, slow-pitch softball, Irish bicycling and Munster hurling (a sport resembling rugby, also from Ireland).

Today?

ESPN broadcasts 65 sports 24 hours a day in 16 languages into more than 200 countries.

Nearly 98 million American households receive ESPN.

At least three U.S. couples have named their children after the network.

Forbes estimated last year ESPN is the world's most valuable media property, worth about $40 billion.

All that leads to the National Football League, whose franchises together are worth more than ESPN. The NFL's regular season started with one game Thursday night -- 13 more Sunday.

In 2011, ESPN reached an eight-year, $15.2 billion deal to broadcast NFL games.

The same year CBS, FOX, and NBC agreed to pay $27.9 billion in total to broadcast NFL games from 2014 to 2022.

So?

As you're watching your favorite team this fall, if you are a football fan, you are a customer of gi-normous businesses. (You probably already knew that.)

What's a Christian to do, in such a case?

For one, "Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. Though while they live they count themselves blessed -- and people praise you when you prosper -- they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life" (Psalm 49:16-19).

Can you say, by contrast, what the psalm writer said?

"But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself" (49:15).

Such faith and hope is what God invites you to each Sunday, the Lord's day (called that in the Bible's last book, it seems, because Sunday is the day the Lord Jesus rose bodily from the dead).

Don't let football, or any entertainment, keep you from hearing regularly the good news of Jesus' holy life and death in your place. Nothing else can save you from hell.

Don't skip opportunities to receive the Lord's supper on the Lord's day, either. There is nothing more valuable.

Hymn writer Johann Franck was right, about holy communion:

"He who craves a priceless treasure

Neither cost nor pain will measure.

But the priceless gifts of heaven

God to us has truly given.

Though the wealth of earth were proffered

Naught would buy the gifts here offered:

Christ's true body, for you riven,

And his blood, for you once given."

The Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 941-747-5564. For more information, see rsavior.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.

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