As most of you know, I am a big sports fan. If I’m not in church, you’ll probably find me at a ball game, rooting on the Cyclones or the Wolves. Volleyball, football, basketball, softball, baseball; I enjoy them all. I try to make as many of the games as possible.

On Wednesday, February 17 both the Cyclones and the Wolves had an important state tournament game., and I missed them both. It was the first game I had missed all year. Why did I miss it? Because that Wednesday was also Ash Wednesday, a holy day in our church. The day we begin the journey of Lent with the symbol of ashes, representing our repentance and our turning to Jesus on the cross.

I was really bothered by this. First, because I missed a game. But more important, because the players and the coaches had to miss a special worship service. As important and as fin as the ball games are, worship is more important. It is a matter of priorities. We must place God first in our lives. As Christians, we are to “deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus” (in the words of the Apostle Paul from Romans). That means we may have to deny ourselves, to follow Jesus. The 3rd Commandment tells us to “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy”. Ash Wednesday is a “Sabbath” day, a day for worship; and we can’t keep it holy, if we have a ball game on that day. On Ash Wednesday, we received the bread and wine of forgiveness in Holy Communion. To schedule a ball game on that day means that players and coaches and fans may not receive the gift of forgiveness that comes with the bread and wine.

This should not happen. I know that sometimes tournament games have to be scheduled on Wednesdays, even though Wednesday night is supposed to be “church night”, reserved for church activities. But there is no reason that a holy day like Ash Wednesday cannot be respected. Churches try very hard to cooperate with the schools, but the schools have to cooperate with the churches as well.

I don’t blame the students or the coaches. They have to play the schedule that is before them. It would not be right or fair to ask them to give up a game and come to church. Nor do I blame the principals or the administrators. They also have to follow the IGHSAU (the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union) and the IHSAA (the Iowa High School Athletic Association). In fact, I know that one principle protested to the IHSAA, and tried to get the game changed, but were turned down. The responsibility lies with the IGHSAU and the IHSAA.

I have written the associations and expressed my concerns. I don’t know how much good it will do. I don’t know if anything is going to come of it, or if anything will change. Hopefully next year, they will not schedule anything on Ash Wednesday. Next year, Ash Wednesday is March 9. This will come right in the middle of the Boys State Tournament. So we will probably have scheduling problems again. I don’t know if anything can be done about it, but I just had to express my frustration.

Your friend in Christ,


Pastor Ron