Posts Tagged ‘hope

29
Nov
17

What kind of hope?

Hope imageSince the calendar tells me we are creeping right up on it, my thoughts this morning turn to Advent… also known to Christians throughout the world as the season of hope.

It is the time when we try to do the spiritual gymnastics of placing ourselves in the sandals of the pre-Jesus world of the ancient Near East, imagining the depth of their yearning for the arrival of God’s promised Messiah.

During this liturgical season, pastors everywhere attempt to re-create the sense of eager anticipation of “the people who walked in great darkness,” (Matthew 4:16) as they asked, “Is this the one? Is it finally happening?”

During this season we often talk about hope in broad universal terms… the hope of humanity for the ultimate triumph of good over evil… hope for the salvation of the soul of the world.

Good, solid hopes, to be sure.

But today I also find my thoughts turning to Scott.

Scott is a guy who lives somewhere in the middle of Missouri. For at least the last two years, Scott has been sending emails to a group of pastors from across the U.S. The emails are about the frustrations Scott is facing in his search for a better job… better than the current, very low-paying one he has now.

Scott is also frustrated about the health (or lack thereof) of his relationship with his wife.

Several times after first receiving his initial emails, I responded and offered suggestions and prayers. Alas, nothing seemed to work out and here Scott is, two years later with no prospects in sight and a very deflated spirit.

Scott’s email messages today have taken a very critical tone… expressing annoyance with the pastors on his list – including yours truly – that have not done enough to help him.

And so I can’t help but wonder: what does hope look like for Scott? Is it the same hope we talk about during the season of Advent? Or is it somehow a different kind of hope?

Jesus came into the world as God’s Messiah… the deliverer promised to the children of Israel during their days of futility and exile. He came to bring freedom and liberation to people long oppressed. He came to announce the beginning of the reign of God… right here, right now.

He came, quoting the prophet Isaiah, to… “bring good news to the poor…” and to, “… proclaim release to the captives.” (Luke 4:18).

But did he also come to bring Scott a better job? And if so, how?

As we enter this holy season, I would invite us to keep those two realms of hope in close dialogue with one another… the realm of eternal hope and the realm of hope in the here-and-now. I can’t tell you how at the moment, but something tells me these realms are very intimately related to each other.

Let us enter the season of Advent striving to be the people who confidently announce the Good News of God’s hope for the world… and for our very real neighbors struggling to make ends meet.

Abundant Advent blessings;

04
Apr
17

Play Ball!

Play Ball imageAhhhhhhhh!

That sound you just heard is the same sound you hear when a thirsty, parched man is finally able to take a deep, satisfying drink of cold water.

It is also the sound I make – totally involuntarily – when the cold cruelty of winter sports finally fades away and BASEBALL SEASON returns to grace our land.

Because let’s be honest… the only thing sweeter than seeing green leaves budding on the trees is seeing the green grass of a baseball field come into view.

Believe it or not, some even describe the opening day of baseball season as something akin to a religious experience… a trip to the ballpark as a pilgrimage… the stadium itself as a CATHEDRAL!

But of course, those are the real die-hard baseball fanatics. Not the calm, reasonable people like you and me.

If you really pressed me hard though, I could probably come up with a few examples of things that America’s Pastime has in common with the faith we gather to practice in houses of worship all over the world. For example:

  • THREE! The number three is fundamental to baseball and faith. Of course, the Christian faith is based on the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (“… baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 28:20, NRSV). Baseball is filled with threes: three strikes, three outs, three times three innings (or nine if you must), three times three players on the field, three bases (home is a PLATE), three outfield positions, and more.

  • TRADITION! Tradition is an essential part of both baseball and religion. A reverence for the practices and beliefs of the past is seen as integral to sound faith practice and sound baseball appreciation. (“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.” Psalm 119:33, NRSV). Change happens slowly in both baseball and faith matters. Meticulous records are kept in each, chronicling the important moments for future generations.
  • TIME! Other games are governed by a clock. They consist of 15 minute quarters, 20 minute halves or a 90 minute total limit. Not baseball. The passage of a baseball game depends on completing certain pre-determined tasks… not the ticking of a clock. In a similar way, the church has always been clear that time is marked differently in the realm of faith. Kairotic time in the church is defined as, “the appointed time in the purpose of God.” Or, in other words: God’s time. (“He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17, NRSV) And as we know… God’s time is not at all the same as human – or football – time.
  • FAITH AND HOPE! “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” is the way Yogi Berra – great Yankee catcher of the 1950s – used to say it. What Yogi meant was; until the very last out of the very last inning is recorded, there is always a chance for either team to win the game. Spectacular comebacks happen all the time in baseball. Just like in real life. Until any of us have breathed our last breath, there is always hope for us. (“Now faith is the conviction of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1, NRSV).

    And, as the Chicago Cubs demonstrated for the world last year, faith may take a long time to be rewarded, but it is never out of place.

  • COMMUNITY! When baseball season gets into full swing (and sometimes when it is not), you can travel around Kansas City and see people wearing their blue Royals hats and T-shirts… proud to cheer for our hometown team. And remember 2015… the year of the World Series championship? Whether or not you went down to Crown Center and squeezed in with 800,000 of your friends and neighbors, we all felt as if we BELONGED together. The same thing happens when we are part of a faith community. We each feel a kinship and a sense of belonging to something much larger than ourselves. (“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26, NRSV).
  • And after the disappointment of the Royals Opening Day loss to the Minnesota Twins, we are reminded of that other great commonality between baseball and faith: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you get rained out. But regardless of what happened yesterday, we go forward with hope and expectation to the events of today.

Of course it goes without saying that there are some significant differences between baseball and faith… the biggest difference being that, as enjoyable as it is, baseball is a game played for our amusement: Faith is about life and death… and eternal life and eternal death.

In the end, I suppose you could say that the final parallel between baseball and faith is that both have the same ultimate objective: to make it HOME. SAFE.

Play ball!




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