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Two years ago, the university I am affiliated with began the process of moving our athletic affiliation to the NCAA. It was not an easy decision. We were accustomed to the traditions of our old association. There were established, sometimes bitter, rivalries that we were accustomed to. And then, there were the rules and regulations.

Yes, the NCAA is known for its rules, and the enforcement thereof. Violating a rule at this level can get you a handslap, a public flogging, or even “the death penalty”, depending on the severity of the violation. And yet, for a myriad of reasons the NCAA is the right affiliation for our university.

The history of intercollegiate sport, and certainly athletics in general, long predates the founding of NCAA, but don’t tell that to some in their leadership circle. It can be our little secret. The 26.2 mile race known as the marathon, in fact, dates back to the namesake battle around 490 BC. The famed James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891, 15 years before the creation of the NCAA.

Speaking of 1906, another organization dates back to that year, give or take a little time on either side of that date. The university I am affiliated with is a Christian university, and is affiliated with an American Restoration religious movement identified by most religious census data as having begun in 1906.

We are accustomed to the traditions of our association. There are established, sometimes bitter, rivalries that we have become accustomed to. And then, there are sometimes rules and regulations.

The history of faith in these United States, and certainly Christianity in general, long predates the recognized founding of a certain movement in 1906, but don’t tell that to some. It can be our little secret.

Actually, forget what I just said. I must be suffering from March Madness. Everyone knows, or should come to know, that Christianity officially came into its own in 33 AD, after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

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Today is a day known to many in Christianity as Palm Sunday, they day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem to begin his Passion Week. Many Christians recognize this week with pomp and circumstance, just like that Sunday in Jerusalem. Pomp and circumstance is not a big deal in the associated group of Christians that I relate with, unless you are talking about weddings. Sorry, I digress.

My point is, or maybe should be, that we maybe should be open to sometimes being more in tune with ceremony and tradition, for it can be an outlet for our passions. The spiritual leadership of AD 33 was passionate about their rules and perceptions, and they ultimately killed Jesus over them. We would do well to avoid similar crimes of passion today. March Madness, indeed.

Basketball fans are passionate. That much is an understatement. They love their teams. They dress up in colorful garb. They sing, and they dance, and they cheer. So do some Christians, when celebrating their Love. Is that wrong? I’m not necessarily convinced it is.

I’m feeling my way along here. To say I’m thinking out loud may be an understatement, as well. I’ve been reading lately about the divisions in Christian movements in the United States (and, not surprisingly our related/supported universities) dating back to 1906, it the irony struck me as I was looking in the car mirror yesterday at my NCAA hat and saw the “Est. 1906” looking back at me.

Don’t get me wrong. I think rules can be good. The same can be said of order. But, too many rules can diminish the flow of the game. Naismith would tell you that, were he here today. So would Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18-28:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

I often find myself more passionate and expressive about basketball than my faith, and that just shouldn’t be. The faith group, the church, I am affiliated with is a Christian faith, and is affiliated with an American Restoration religious movement identified by most religious census data as having begun in 1906. And yet, the passion dates all the way back to 33 AD. I would do well to work to ignite it each and every day, just like for a good contest on the hardwood. Bring on the madness. It’s game time.

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