By Bryce Jessup
John Wooden, who died June 4, 2010, attended Shepherd of the Hills Church in the Los Angeles area. He is the only person to make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. He won 10 NCAA Championships. He was named “Coach of the Century.”
Few are aware he carried a wooden cross in his pocket. He would hold it in his fingers when things didn’t go well during a game. A reporter asked him if it was a religious ritual for him, and his answer was “no.” He said that holding the cross reminded him of his priorities in life. He knew there were things much more important than the basketball game.
Coach Wooden had it right! Basketball is but a game, a sport, a national pastime. Coaches and players know their assignments are at best temporary. For the fans, games are fun, relaxing, and challenging. Some invest a great deal in them. People paint their faces and bodies, wear crazy clothes and hats, and yell till they are hoarse (cheering on their team to victory). Sometimes their team wins, and sometimes their team loses. But the loyal fan will keep coming back to support his favorite team, sometimes at great personal sacrifice and expense.
Communion reminds us there is a much deeper game to be played, the game of life. It lasts forever! Calvary’s cross, as Wooden reminds us, is where the victory has been achieved. In the midst of our day-to-day struggles, we look to the cross as our point of forgiveness for how we have played the game, and for our confidence in a certain future that will be spectacular! The world drinks to forget; the Christian drinks to remember. To remember his love and pain on our behalf!
When every basketball court will have been rolled up like a scroll, and every coach and player has participated in his or her last game, the coach of the universe will live on and his team will celebrate with him forever and ever at the eternal Communion table of our Lord. The old rugged cross should indeed shape our priorities for life!
Bryce Jessup is president emeritus of William Jessup University, Rocklin, California.