Growing up in Mason City, Iowa, known variously as the “Promised Land” and the “Frozen Tundra,” it seems most people were Minnesota Vikings fans. I counted myself as a Vikings fan and was challenged in those years in the 70s when the Vikings went to the Super Bowl something like three times in four years and didn’t win.
I’m not happy to admit that I ceased being a Vikings fan after that, because as a pastor and witness to Jesus’ resurrection, I understand that commitment in the face of difficulty, even persecution, is part of the spiritual journey. Real followers and not “fair-weather fans” is where the real connections and life-changing experiences happen.
As I was reading from the Bible in the Gospel of John about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem recently, I was struck by how often the fans (the crowd) played an important role in the events leading to His crucifixion and resurrection — they’re everywhere! They are witnesses to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and because they shared the news, they verified that it really happened. They turn out in droves to cheer Jesus on and because of this support the authorities’ options for action are limited “because they feared the crowd.”
The crowd has power. In basketball, the “6th Man” refers to the first one off the bench to spark life into the team at a crucial time. It also refers to the fans, who like the sixth man, spark life into the team with noise, support and presence. In business, particularly with the internet, “the power of the crowd” is an increasingly recognized partner. The many ways this is happening can be found in a book at the Clinton Library entitled, “Crowd Sourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business” by Jeff Howe.
The crowd has power… but the crowd isn’t always right. Within a week or so of seeing Lazarus raised from the dead, cheering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and seeing more miracles performed, almost everyone (like one former Vikings fan) had abandoned Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead and began appearing to the disciples and then when the Holy Spirit filled them at Pentecost, the changed lives of the disciples began bringing the crowds back to Jesus and the world has never been the same.
In church circles we sing, “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together. All of God’s children, all around the world, Yes we’re the church together!” We could say, “I am the crowd, you are the crowd, we are the crowd together…” I am Clinton, you are Clinton, we are Clinton together…” We all have influence. Wherever we go, we interact with people and touch lives.
Jesus transforms our lives, calls us to love all, speak up for the voiceless and sacrificially care for the weak and poor. How will you use your power in Clinton?
Bobb Barrick is the pastor of Clinton's First United Methodist Church.