I'm sitting at gate B13 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, awaiting departure on US Airways flight 1613 to New Orleans. Purpose of the trip is related to my duties as a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Trustee, but I get to combine business with pleasure and spend a couple of nights with my son, Jay, and his family while in the Big Easy.
It appears that the flight is full. Seating in the gate area is severely inadequate and some of us are sitting in the row of seats marked, "Special Assistance Passenger". (In my case that may be appropriated). There seems to be an awful large number of New Orleans Saints fans awaiting boarding, and with good reason. The Saints are 12-0 for the season, one of only two teams that are undefeated in the NFL this year. In fact it is the first time in NFL history that two teams are undefeated after the twelfth week of play. The Saints almost blew it Sunday as it took an overtime field goal to secure the win against the Washington Redskins in DC.
There are a lot of Saints fans out there across the fruited plain today. Moreso than ever before. The last couple of seasons have been good for the Saints. In fact, Hurricane Katrina seemed to be a turning point for the team formerly known as the "Ain'ts" (as in "ain't going to the playoffs") The 12-0 darlings of New Orleans have picked up thousands of new fans since their convincing beat down of the powerful New England Patriots at the Louisiana Superdome a week ago, seen nationally on Monday Night Football. My friend, Greg Hamby, a pastor in the Boston area, (and a long time Patriots fan) has decried the sudden number of "bandwagon fans" tha the Saints seem to have picked up. But isn't that usually the case?
When things are going well, everyone loves a winner. And the Saints are just that this season. Big time winners.
That seems to be the way it is in life in general. There are always folks who jump on the bandwagon when someone is winning, and winning big. We want to identify with winners.
It all reminds me of the huge number of people you can find (my age and older) who are Cincinnati Reds fans (or I should say WERE Cincinnati Reds fans). They all remember those great teams we called the "Big Red Machine" back in the 70's. You remember. The guys who beat the powerful Boston Red Sox in seven games during what many have called the greatest World Series ever. The same bunch, led by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, George Foster, et al, came back the next year and swept the Bronx Bombers in four games, for back to back titles.
Where are all the "Big Red Machine Fans" now? In fact, where were they before, back in the days before Sparky Anderson and Don Gullett? Where were they when Gordy Coleman, Joe Nuxhall and Leo Cardenas were just an average run of the mill bunch of Redlegs?
It's the bandwagon phenomenon and it is not just related to sports. You'll find the same situation with politicians, and celebrities of many stripes. When they are winning and popular, everybody wants a piece of the action. When things go south, the bandwagon empties quickly.
It was the same way in Jesus' time. Huge multitudes were following Him for His controversial teaching, his miracle working actions and for the sheer curiosity aspect of it all. His popularity was tremendous. In John chapter six, Jesus began to declare who He truly was and for what reason He came. The bandwagon began to empty quickly. When many "turned away and walked with Him no more", He asked His disciples, "Will you also go away?"
Simon Peter spoke up (as he often did) and said "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!"
Those are not the words of a bandwagon fan. Those are not the words of a fair weather friend. Those are the words of an individual who recognized Jesus as the Way the Truth and the Life, and realized that apart from Him, there is no hope of forgiven sin, eternal life, and a relationship with God. Peter had found that in Jesus. Millions of others have, too.
Do you have such a relationship?
I'm convinced that most of the Saint's fans here at gate B13 are true fans, not the bandwagon variety. Many of them are talking about the long years of losing, and the wonderful fulfillment that the team brings today.
I hope that they, and you, have your full trust and faith in the one who has already won the greatest victory of time and eternity.
Will YOU be in that number... "When the Saints Go Marching In"?