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May 6-13, 2009 – A tribute to players snubbed by the NFL draft

Contributed by Matthew R. Nelson
Walla Walla, WA

Warm-up Question: Read John 15:3. What does it mean (for you/for us) to be cleansed by the words of Christ?

Not everyone who is chosen in the annual NFL draft will secure a spot on the roster of the team that chose them. For some that were not picked, the prospects of eventually making an NFL team are minimal at best.

There are always some oddities in the 256 pick process called Draft Day. This year, the quarterback from Kent State was picked to be a potential receiver by the Patriots. The Cardinals used pick #131 to make Greg Toler the first student athlete ever chosen from St. Paul’s (VA), a Division II school. Also selected from Division II were Abilene Christian teammates Johnny Knox and Bernard Scott, who were taken at #140 by the Bears and #209 by the Bengals, respectively. The three players from Division II schools outnumbered draft picks from nine major collegiate institutions and equaled those from four others.

Other surprises included Demetrius Byrd, chosen by the San Diego Chargers with their last pick in the seventh round. He remains hospitalized with serious injuries resulting from a car accident; injuries that might even prevent him from playing again. The Broncos in the 2nd round picked North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn, even though he only had 12 catches in two years with the school. And one of the pre-draft favorites of some, Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter, was picked by the Colts in the sixth round, even though he lost his starting job temporarily in 2008.

As always, some players were picked higher in the draft than some expected, some were picked lower, and some players who were expecting to be drafted were not. The person making the pick in the draft decides the value of a player and his potential. In spite of very meticulous research and a clear set of needs that teams hope to fill with draft picks, some players will exceed expectations and many will never live up to them.

Discussion Questions

  • The New Student Bible (NRSV) notes that the same Greek root for ‘cleansed’ refers also to pruning, (vs. 3). What types of things does God prune from you emotionally or behaviorally in order that you might abide in Christ?
  • Read John 14:30-31. Why do you think Jesus moved from the privacy of speaking with his disciples to a more public forum? Walking or riding would surely attract more people, and the events that followed lead directly to the crucifixion.
  • What questions would you have for Christ if you were in the disciple’s shoes on that day?
  • Before (John 14:28) and after (John 16:5) the lesson today, Jesus speaks of departing or leaving the disciples to continue in ministry and mission. Do you think the disciples felt empowered or abandoned as Jesus spoke to them?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, May 10, 2009.

(Text links are to oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day

Gospel Reflection

Jesus had already foretold of his betrayal and of Peter’s denial. Now he is speaking of departing, of leaving them to continue in his mission. Questions must have been racing through their minds. Understanding this, Christ simply and calmly says, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)

That’s it! The essence of Jesus’ message to his disciples and to us is that amidst all of our concern, amidst all of our doubt, and even amidst any shortcomings that we might have, we have been chosen and should begin our mission and calling immediately, fully cleansed and prepared. 

Christ’s example in life, and his the sacrifice on the cross have grafted us into the living vine, and the vine grower’s field. Now, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the advocate, each of us will experience the blessing of being a blessing as our gifts and talents are used to glorify God in this world.

The NFL draft is an interesting process full of hope and anticipation for hundreds of collegiate athletes who hope to continue their football careers. A football career would mean a lifestyle far from the ordinary. Even with a college degree to fall back on, life without football means a future uncertain, and a plunge into a different kind of competitive job market. Football is their skill, and football is their desire.

Being chosen in the draft, however, is not the end accomplishment of hard work. It is the beginning of a new relationship with a team that will take all of your past experiences and skills, and mold them to better their own mission, to win a Super Bowl. Through continued work and practice, players are stripped of poor habits and cleansed in their discipline to perform on the field. Coaches and trainers teach, and then lead gently and not so gently from the sidelines during each game.

Jesus chose his original disciples as he began his adult public ministry. He chose ordinary people, from fishermen to tax collectors. These ordinary people witnessed and experienced some extraordinary things as they walked with Jesus. They bonded with their teacher, and he bonded with them. Their sense of privilege in being chosen by Jesus and their sense of belonging must have been tremendous, right up until our lesson today.

Discussion Questions 

  • What are the gifts or skills you believe that God has given you in order that you might glorify his name?
  • Have you experienced the joy or rejection of being chosen or not chosen to participate in an activity or sport? Answers might range from school and neighborhood games to more serious auditions for music, plays, and team sports. Share something positive about that experience. Was it positive at the time, or do you look back at it more positively now? Why? 
  • Being trained and then left to do something is a part of all work experiences. Describe a situation or time when you thought you weren’t ready for the task at hand? How did you feel? What did you do? How did you work through the situation? Did you pray about it and ask God for help? What did you ask for?
  • Sometimes being a Christian singles you out for criticism, making us just a little different than many of our friends. Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:27 that in spite of the world and of persecution of any kind, that we are to testify on his behalf because we have been with him from the beginning. How do you feel about that? Why?

Activity Suggestions

  • Sing “His Banner Over Me is Love.” One version with chords is available at take a note pad to worship. Without writing names, look at other members of the congregation and write down what you think their gifts and talents are. Post the list in the Narthex or in the church bulletin or newsletter. Title it “Gifts we have that glorify God.”  
  • Sometimes we overlook or undervalue our own gifts, (question #1 above). Write each group member’s name on a piece of paper. By their name, write one gift or talent you think they have. Give them to your group leader, who can write the gifts and talents on the chalkboard or dry erase board, without names. This gives everyone the opportunity to say something positive about others, but doesn’t single anyone out. You can lead the activity verbally if you feel comfortable doing so.

Closing Prayer

Lord we praise your name and thank you for first choosing us. Send now the Holy Spirit, the advocate, that we might know your continued presence and work to glorify your name. Amen.