One of the remarkable blessings of moving to Vancouver almost five years ago, has been that my friend and mentor Steven Garber recently took a post to lead the marketplace theology department at Regent College here locally. Steve has many family ties to Kansas, the land of my upbringing, so he understands a thing or two about the region's passion for basketball, especially this time of year during March Madness.
As Steve and I watched the Kansas-Duke Elite Eight game together yesterday afternoon, we talked about our love for our sports' teams that go beyond simply a love for sports, but root us in a particular place, with a memory of belonging to a particular story. We also talked about "ordered" vs. "disordered" affections. Of course, during the game, Steve did most of the talking as I could barely take my eyes off the screen as the game turned out to be a classic among two of the bluest bloods of college basketball, with Kansas winning in overtime, on their way to the Final Four in San Antonio which will take place this Saturday. Of course, the Final Four game lands on Holy Saturday right between Good Friday and Easter.
I remember back in 2013, my beloved Kansas Jayhawks lost to Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen on Good Friday in a game they should have won. I recorded the game because it took place during our tenebrae "darkness" service, came home, opened the computer to see that KU had lost by just a couple of points. I watched the recording and learned that KU had been up by 10pts. with barely two minutes left in the game and ended up squandering the lead and losing the game. I thought about the game on Holy Saturday more than I did the significance of Good Friday and my joy was strained at best on the greatest day of the year on the church calendar, Easter Sunday.
I want for things to be different this Saturday, Kansas win or loss, but for my joy to be made complete and ordered by my greater allegiance to the Kingdom of God, so to that end I pray entering this Holy Week and Weekend. But I do so knowing that all these things, yes, even March Madness, have been the kindness of God to me granting me His good gifts. So I understand that to love something as simple as a round ball is a good and holy thing to do, but to exalt such gifts, not so much. Here I attach for your reflection an excerpt from my dissertation that was completed last year. The work revolved around how we develop as sense of belonging and home in this world.
We moved to Vancouver in 2013 to serve the family of Grace Vancouver Church and to live in a neighborhood in south Vancouver. For the first time in my life, by all external appearances, I “fit in” and found myself to be more “same” than “different” from the surrounding culture. The mosaic of various Asian cultures across the greater Vancouver landscape made it so, for the first time in my life, I had to adjust to gaining a sense of normalcy regarding my race and ethnicity in a place. In a number of ways, I have loved living in Vancouver, appreciating that eating dim sum and sushi could be thought of as “normal” activity rather than strange, or simply riding my bike along the waterfront on a beautiful Vancouver summer day with the mountains in the background. Nonetheless, my family and I have grieved the loss of what was home for so many years. After three and a half years in Vancouver, we still have a lingering sadness about the friends, neighbors, church, and place we left behind in Nebraska. I still follow the regional sports teams in the Kansas area and stay in touch with old friends. Even as I write this chapter, my alma mater, the University of Kansas’ basketball team is once again seeded number one in the NCAA March Madness tournament and primed for a deep run into the tournament. I am full of both excitement and anxiety because I care so much about Kansas basketball. I tell anyone who will listen that the inventor of the game of basketball, James Naismith, was the first coach at KU, a Canadian, and a Presbyterian minister. I am a KU graduate, a Presbyterian minister, and I live in Canada. I play basketball every Monday night at one of the local community centers in Vancouver, not because I am good at basketball but because through the years, basketball found a way to take up residence in the dwellings of my heart. How could the Lord have been so kind to me to bring all these worlds together for me in something as basic as a round ball?
I have realized that even as I felt alienated at times and was away from a sense of home those many years in the heartland of the US, also I was at home in other ways as well.