Friday Night Lights & Liturgy

I’ve been watching Friday Night Lights a lot lately. It’s an interesting show to watch because it has a fairly explicit faith stance – the sort of Christianity that you see in America a lot. People attend church, they profess faith, but their lives scream of anything but that. Saturday night they’re drunk and Sunday morning they are sitting beside their parents in church quietly singing a hymn. Honestly, that isn’t what drew me to the show – what drew me in was my love of angsty teen dramas and NFL. How could I resist the combination?

Anyway, the catch cry of the team is this:

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

I smile everytime I hear it and sometimes it’s to do with the inspiring music that plays behind it, but other times it is because there is something so strong behind those words. There is a focus and a determination that I don’t often see in real life. There is something passionate and strong. A team of people crying out those words is… loud. It is something you want to be a part of.

And so we arrive at liturgy – that is, the prayer book and all those sorts of things. If church isn’t to us what it is to the town of Dillon in Friday Night Lights, then I offer you a thought that may or may not resonate with you. There are words we say in church regularly that have an intention to unite us and remind us of why we are there. They were written to be spoken aloud by congregations because like a football teams shouts before a game we are meant to be passionate about who it is that we support. We mutter “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” during communion. We go through creeds like they are just in the way of the next song, and then we sing the song barely above a whisper. If we are passionate, and we should be passionate, I imagine there would be fire behind our words.

I am not saying we fake this passion. I am not saying we put on an impressive church mask and act like our faith is always in tact. I am saying that we have more to celebrate than a football team. I am saying that Jesus is alive. I am saying that NFL is easy to be passionate, but Jesus is the only one worth actually being passionate about.

There is a character in Friday Night Lights named Tim Riggins. He plays for the Panthers and is one of the star players, but his personal life is messier than most. Riggins feels alive when he plays football, and he waits anxiously for that feeling of completeness, of being lost in something bigger than him. More momentum, more glory, more… something to fill the gap in his life.

I think I relate to him more than most characters. I always try to find something to fill the hole. I am reminded, though, as I think about football and liturgy that it doesn’t work. This world is broken and when we say “come, Lord Jesus, come,” it should be with conviction and hope and a desire to be finally home. Finally.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose, right?


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