Posts Tagged ‘tradition

09
Mar
20

“Let me OFF!”

Merry go roundWell, it’s that time of year again.

It is the time of year when the antennae of clergyfolk in the United Methodist Church are exquisitely attuned to every minor shift in the wind, every minute rise or fall in barometric pressure, every nuance of conversation.

Yes, this time on the calendar – from late January to mid-April(ish) or so – is APPOINTMENT-SETTING TIME! That means it is the time of year when it is possible for any United Methodist pastor to answer a phone call and hear the words, “Hello (insert name here). This is your District Superintendent calling. I have an opportunity I would like to discuss with you. Is now a good time to talk?”

Even though I am now retired and blessedly aloof from that whole business, I still feel sympathy pangs for my brothers and sisters of the cloth when this time of year rolls around. I am still haunted by vivid memories of tensing up every time the phone rang and a certain suspicious area code showed up on Caller ID.

For pastors in the United Methodist Church, this is at least a three-month exercise of walking on – no, LIVING on – eggshells.

At the root of the anxiety that attends appointment-setting time is the very real fact that almost no one likes change. Not even pastors. We humans seem to be willing to do anything in our power to maintain the status quo… even when the status quo is patently unacceptable.

And when the pace of change in the world around us accelerates, our desire to hold onto something solid and unchanging zooms up proportionately.

It may be that I am more aware of this since I am well into my dotage, but everywhere I look today, I see change:

  • The technology of living (telephones, TVs, appliances, automobiles, banks, grocery stores, etc.) is changing.
  • The climate is changing.
  • The country’s (and the world’s) demographic contours are changing.
  • Social customs are changing.
  • The political, religious, cultural, and moral landscapes are all changing… with some changing more rapidly than others.
  • My own health and the health of those close to me is changing… and mostly not for the better.
  • Heck, even the rules of my favorite games – baseball and football – are changing.

In that kind of a topsy-turvy world, I can easily identify with the urge to slow down the merry-go-round or jump off of it completely. And yet, there is a HUGE difference between being annoyed by the pace of change (which is most of us… with the exception of babies with dirty diapers) and actively working to hold back its tide. The effort to stop or roll back the changing face of society is the urge that lies at the core of all of the world’s regressive movements.

But as much as I grouse and whine about change… as much as I dredge up stories of “the good old days,” I have to stop and remember… this is not my ride.

It is not mine to control. It is not mine to resist. It is not mine to counter-program or attempt to sabotage.

“This…” in the words of the ancient psalmist, “… is the day the Lord has made.”

This is not some warped, funhouse-mirror parody version of the day the Lord meant to make. This is EXACTLY the day the Lord has made.

On purpose.

In that case then, we should follow the rest of the psalmist’s advice that says: “… let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, NRSV).

AMEN.

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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