Hail to the Victors
What do the University of Michigan and the book of Revelation have in common? At least two things: A love of the word “Victors” and a reliance on Nike.
For the non-sporty people out there, last week the University of Michigan managed to win the NCAA Division I Football National Championship for the first time since 1997. I know more than a few folks whose well-being was closely tied to the outcome of that game. After every Maize and Blue win, you can hear the triumphant strains of the Michigan fight song: “Hail to the victors valiant, hail to the conquering heroes. Hail! Hail! To Michigan, the Champions of the West.” It’s a great tune, even if the lyrics are a little pompous.
This is where the U of M and Scripture meet – in the emphasis on “the Victors." If you’ve been in worship on recent Sunday mornings, you may have noticed that at the end of each of Jesus’s messages to the seven churches, he ends with this phrase… “To the one who overcomes…” or in some translations, “To the Victors…,” which is then followed by promises: access to eat from the tree of life, or a white stone with your name written on it etc… Jesus is in the business not only of making disciples, but creating victors.
Of course, victory in the Bible isn’t based on the size of your offensive line or the passing efficiency of your starting quarterback – No! Rather, real victory is based solely on the work of Jesus and the access we have to the benefits of that work through faith. The Greek erb in the New Testament that Jesus uses here is “νίκη,” which, when transliterated into English letters, is simply “Nike” - just like the shoe brand.
Before it was associated with Michael Jordan or footwear, “Nike” was the proper name of one of the goddesses in the Greek Pantheon. The Goddess Nike always appears with wings – in motion or in flight – she is literally “winged victory.” That’s why the Nike company uses the swoosh in their branding - to represent the wings of the victory goddess.
Just as every kid who wears a pair of Nike’s doesn’t automatically win every game that they compete in, “Nike Christians” – which is what Jesus envisions his disciples to be – don’t come out on top in every little detail in life. We still struggle. We still sin. We still fail.
But, in the battle between truth and error, faith and cynicism, grace and disgrace – God already sees us and declares us to be “more than conquerors” because we are aligned with Jesus, the One who declared “It is Finished!” when he won the great battle over the darkness.
Whether or not your favorite team is currently winning or losing, whether you prefer Nike or Adidas or whatever, rest assured that Jesus Christ has already overcome the world which makes him the Great Victor and those on his team part of the parade of Victors Valiant, too. Every Sunday is a new opportunity to sing the fight songs and celebrate this very thing!
~ Pastor Gregg