A basketball net is nothing but a tangle of nylon rope. Twisted into 12 loops. Hardly anything special, right? Not by a long shot. A basketball net is an eye witness to some of the greatest sports events ever. A basketball net can produce what some people consider the world’s single greatest sound…“swish.” A piece of a basketball net is more than a snippet of rope…it’s the ultimate prize.
Last night, I watched along with many of you as players from the UNC men’s basketball team cut the net in Phoenix, Arizona after defeating Gonzaga to win the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball championship. Cutting the net is a tradition that goes back to 1947, begun by NC State coach Everett Case. Players and coaches cut the net after winning a big game to have a piece of…the victory. A piece of…the memory. A piece of…the redemption.
“Redemption” is the word being used to describe this year’s championship game. That’s because in 2016 UNC lost the championship game by a single shot to Villanova. Whether you are a UNC fan or not, it would be hard not to respect a group of college kids who, after losing the biggest sports game of their lives, returned to win the very next year. Redemption. They cut the net.
After experiencing failure, so often the world sends messages like: “You had your chance.” “Give it up.” “Tough luck.” Basketball, like other sports, reminds me that failure is a part of life. In 1993, as cancer was consuming his body, North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano gave one of the greatest speeches of all time. Often referred to as the “Don’t Give Up” speech, Valvano said, “To me, there are three things we all should do every day of our life,” Valvano said. “Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two, think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, be it happiness or joy.” He also encouraged listeners with those memorable words, “Don’t Ever Give Up.”
Redemption is a word that means “the act of saving or being saved.” As we at Christ Lutheran journey closer to Holy Week, we prepare to celebrate the ultimate act of redemption. Christ’s death on the cross for you and for me. What first appeared to be the ultimate defeat on the hillside of Calvary led to the ultimate victory—God’s love overcoming sin, death, and the grave Easter morning. We are redeemed. God’s love never gives up on us. Jesus Christ has won the ultimate victory and has given us the spoils. Cut the net!
Redeemed with you,