Broken Brackets

March may be over, but the “Madness” continues!

This coming weekend’s Final Four competition in Minneapolis will crown another national champion in the NCAA men’s basketball league, and alas, my bracket is totally “busted”!

I filled one out several weeks ago just for personal enjoyment, not anticipating how engaged I would become in the process. I swelled with pride when I guessed right on a majority of the early Round of 32 contests, but then hit the skids on my Sweet 16 picks. My national champion choice didn’t make it out of the Elite Eight!

My broken bracket notwithstanding, the reality of the tournament is that 67 out of 68 teams exit the competition without hoisting the championship trophy. While there are some beautiful Cinderella stories to be celebrated--a Big 12 team that’s not KU is in the Final Four!--a lot of dreams have been shattered during these days.

Expanding the analogy a bit, I think it’s safe to say that life has a way of breaking our brackets and smashing our dreams. All of us have tasted the pain of defeat and disappointment. Whether it’s a loss of livelihood, a cancer diagnosis, or the death of a beloved spouse, child, sibling, or parent, we’ve all tasted grief and been battered by our sorrow. I can’t remember a season in my 21 years here at Grace when we’ve had as many funerals in such a short span of months as we’ve had recently.

Some of us have had our “marriage bracket” broken by the loss of peace, oneness and hope, and we wonder if there’s a “consolation bracket” for wounded hearts!

I love how author Dallas Willard responds to that when he writes,

“The human soul is a vast spiritual (nonphysical) landscape, with resources and relationships that exceed human comprehension; and it also exists within an infinite environment of which, at our best, we have little knowledge. We only know that God is over it all and that the soul, if it can acknowledge its wounded condition, manifests amazing capacities for recovery when it finds its home in God and receives his grace.” (Renovation of the Heart, p. 202)

Enter the grace of Jesus Christ!

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

See you Sunday, as Pastor Jack continues his sermon series on “Real Faith” from the book of James.

Pastor Steve