Darryl Hill was the first African-American to play football for the University of Maryland in the early 1960s. He received a great deal of abuse from fans throughout the South, but he was especially shocked by the shouts and taunts of the crowd at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Wake Forest had deep Baptist ties, and its team was known as the “Deacons.”
As the pre-game warm-up ended, Hill noticed Wake Forest’s captain approaching him. “I want to apologize for the behavior of my fans,” he said to Hill. Then, draping his arm over Hill’s shoulder, he began to walk him toward the Wake Forest side of the field, where the jeering was at its worst. By the time the two of them reached the middle of the field, the rude screaming had dropped to near silence.
Who was this courageous captain of the Wake Forest Deacons? According to The Washington Post Magazine (February 1, 2004), the player’s name was Brian Piccolo, who, years later, would inspire the TV movie Brian’s Song, which dramatized his relationship with African-American player Gale Sayers, and Piccolo’s battle with cancer.
Friends, relationships are risky. They make us decide what is important enough to spend time, energy, commitment, and sacrifice. Relationships are risky.
Some end up in deep friendships spanning many years. Others, result in a marriage between a husband and wife, deciding to spend life together…”till death do us part.” Another, I believe, influences ALL others: A relationship with God. You have heard me say from the pulpit: “Do not pray if you do not want God to interfere in your life.” I mean it!
When we have a relationship with God, our life gets re-prioritized, re-vamped, returned to its original purpose, and returned to a life-seeking God in so many ways. It’s about relationships. And relationships are risky. When we love, we risk hurt, grief, disappointment. We also risk experiencing great joy, happiness, star-lit evenings, love, passion, and fulfillment. It’s about relationships, and relationships are risky.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NRSV)
This month, as we begin to close another year, reflect where you are and where God wants you to be and become. It is more than a beautiful tree in the lobby-foyer and sanctuary. It is about being part of a community of faith. It is about relationships. There is a place for you and yours. Let me hear from you.