In the past two years, I have given several talks in the Cleveland area at the request of the Diocese. Each time I spoke, it was about growing a more engaged parish community and the value of cultivating a sense of belonging.
I would begin each talk by playing the following Nike ad featuring Lebron James entitled Together.
Not everyone is a sports fan. For many, a game is just a game. But at those talks in Cleveland, I think everyone in the room got it. Some even had tears in their eyes.
You see, there are two things that can bring communities together like nothing else: success and adversity. If you are not a sports fan in Cleveland and the surrounding areas, you know someone who is a fan. Maybe you are married to them, or they are your brother or sister, or even your child.
The adversity felt by this community was not just centered on of 50+ year drought for sports championship. The adversity has been felt in economic downturn, urban decay, and frightening crimes that caught the attention of the world.
But the return of a native son, Lebron James, gave everyone in the city hope, not just for success at a game, but in the words of a great spiritual, “a change is gonna come.” The amazing thing is everybody in Cleveland got it, whether you had been a basketball fan or not. Hope is a mighty force and it can begin to change the landscape of many lives.
When I showed the above ad, I suggested that it would be great if our parish communities felt that sense of belonging and the power of everyone moving forward together. Those in the room felt the power of that message, wanting even more to build that experience into their church communities. It was about more than hope. It was about belonging to something much greater than yourself.
I showed the video a few times in other cities, but the effect was not the same. Those living in other places did not have the same experience as Clevelanders. They saw the ad as as a cute message and drew the parrallel to parish life, but it didn’t move them.
Last night, the hopes of Cleveland turned into joy and jubilation. The meaning behind the Cavaliers winning an NBA title is much, much more than a trophy or respect. It is about the hopes and dreams of a community now suddenly becoming attainable goals. It signals a new chapter, a new world, a new reality.
I am so excited for all those in Cleveland. But my hope is that people everywhere will have the chance to be part of something bigger than themselves. Of course, my prayer is that experience can be in a faith community, not with King James, but with the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, because He’s the Main Thing.
But for today… CONGRATULATIONS CLEVELAND!
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