Good morning, I'm the Rev'd Julie Golding Page of St Patrick's Anglican Church. Our daily CFMQ devotionals this month are inspired by events in the world of sports. They are available on CFMQ, on YouTube, and on the internet at plaideggnog.blogspot.com.
Last year, I got into watching baseball. It’s really the first time I ever watched a sport with any real interest or regularity. You might be wondering why, in a hockey country, I like baseball best. Good question! Let me tell you what hooked me.
The more I watched, the more I saw just how complex baseball really is. Strategy develops not only at the team level, but also between the different players as the game unfolds. The more I watched complicated plays happen, the more I appreciated baseball. Things like stealing bases – especially home plate. How changing the starting line-up completely changes how the batters perform. It was all so fascinating.
And baseball comes across as gentlemanly. What I mean is, the players typically don’t fight, and they are courteous to their opponents on the field. They simply play the game, and they seem to remember that it’s a game, with rules to follow so they act accordingly. When I first started watching games, I was surprised to see how the base runners would interact with the infielders they were playing against. It amazed me to see a base runner on 2nd shooting the breeze with the 2nd baseman – with both of them smiling! It really impressed me, because they were supposed to be competing to win the game.
But as I watched, I realized baseball wasn’t quite as innocent and above-board as I’d thought. I saw how sometimes umpires make mistakes, or players get injured, and the best, most creative strategies get reduced to failure. All because of something nobody can do anything about except take it, and start over. Then I saw players, managers and coaches reacting immaturely to an umpire’s call. Sometimes even the best guys let it get to them, and they just lose their heads and get ejected, or even suspended. Some of the shine wore off the game for me.
So baseball and the players in it are anything but perfect, and that can be disappointing. That makes me think of how some people react to life in a church community. When they first become part of a church, they see it like I saw baseball – with rose-coloured glasses. Then, as they spend more time there, they start to see how it’s not perfect. They notice the internal politics, because there are power games in churches just like everywhere else. After all, every-body in church is human, and we make mistakes, step on toes, and sometimes try to get our own way when we shouldn’t. And like in baseball, church members can lose their cool, too, or rub you the wrong way. Personalities don’t always mix. People get disappointed and even hurt.
So did I give up on baseball? And should we all give up on church? Because we know that neither one is perfect, and certainly the players and church members aren’t. At the first of the letters to the Corinthians, in the Bible, Paul calls the church “believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life.” (1 Cor 1:2) That sounds great, doesn’t it? And we may not think that our own church looks much like that. We’re all believers, but we might think a lot of people don’t look very cleaned up or set apart for a God-filled life. Maybe we wonder if we ourselves even look like that. But I don’t think we should give up. Because Paul kept going in his letter to the church in Corinth, and he detailed all the things they were doing wrong. Some of it was pretty nasty stuff. He realized – and they probably did, too – that their lives didn’t look very God-filled. But Paul wanted them to know that they were still on God’s team. He hadn’t cut them. But like any good coach, he wasn’t about to let them keep on living in a destructive way. He had some instructions for them, and he wanted them to help each other figure out how to live them, together, right there in the church.
I haven’t given up on baseball. In fact, I admire the players even more, after realizing how much they have to struggle, to both play the game well and keep their personal lives in check. Maybe you’ve been disappointed by church. It’s my prayer that you will be able to see both your church and the people in it with new eyes, realizing how members struggle, too, as they seek to have the God-filled lives they intend. Why not give church another chance and join up for God’s team? For St. Patrick’s Anglican Church, I’m Julie Golding Page.