A long time ago, when I was in college and the playoff season for baseball was in full swing I was watching a game with some of my fraternity brothers. I am not a particularly avid fan of baseball, and despite a genetic predilection favoring the Detroit Tigers I don't follow a team. That day, however, I had a couple of brothers who were serious fans, and their team-one that on the whole did not usually make the playoffs-was doing well indeed. Another of the brothers present had recently expressed his support for the team, but instead of being received with joy, he got teased for being a "fair-weather fan." It seemed to the "serious" fans of the team that just because their team was winning, this other one was deciding to cheer for them. That was probably the case, but I could see the tension is created in the room. You really only had "credit" as a fan, the ardent ones held, if you cheered for the team during good times and bad...and for that team, the times were usually pretty bad.
That is entertaining for a group of college boys arguing in front of a ball game, perhaps it is even to be expected. But when it becomes a focus of theological understanding in a community, then the stakes become much more costly.
|Joshua's last moments|
Don't be a fair-weather fan, a person of faith who is with, and for God when the blessings flow, but forgets when the need for God ebbs. Or worse, that we become a people who continually put God to the test...
|A young boy's lunch...|
Fair-weather faith: it is a tough thing to deal with as the Church. We celebrate people expressing faith in any kind, and yet for the folk who commit to God through thick and thin (read: Joshua, or the Pharisees), there is a reticence in accepting what might seem a flash-in-the-pan enthusiasm cheering for God. Even the disciples bridle with Jesus' teachings as the cost of following God seems to keep rising. They themselves say that the teachings are hard, and difficult for many to follow. At the end of the chapter, many who were following him depart....
All of this musing brings me back to that moment on the couch with my fraternity brothers. What was a semi-goodnatured ribbing of a fair-weather fan is today a ward for us all: faith is not something to be toyed with, nor is it something that the "more" faithful can possibly hold against those "less" faithful. What matters most is a willingness to be in relationship to God ad to each other. That is the fidelity that Joshua (and Moses before him) reminds Israel is more than just a flash-in-the-pan/fair-weather commitment. That is the faith that Jesus asks of those who follow him. You don't need to be overly ardent, over and against everyone else...just consistent, and welcoming of any who show up wanting to know more of God and more of life in God. There is faith enough for all, in fair weather and otherwise.