Holy Hilarity Sermon 4/12/2015
For today I am posting the sermon delivered by my wife, The Rev Dawn, this past Sunday for “Holy Hilarity Sunday.”
It is worth reading, my friends.
HAVE YOU EVER STOPPED and thought about why you love the things you love?
Generally, we love people – our spouses and significant others – people whose lives fit with our lives, who enjoy the same things, who react to life the same way. We love our children, because they’re our children. I love autumn because I didn’t grow up in a place where autumn happened – on the grand scale that it does here. So being here, where the season are so remarkable, is something very special to me and the changing colors of the leaves often leave me breathless. John reminded me that he does not love winter because he grew up with winter. And as he says, “Enough said.”
Scientists did a study as to why people love certain kinds of music. Using MRIs and all sorts of fancy things, they discovered that music that people identified as a favorite was music brought on an emotional response that triggered a release of dopamine in the brain – basically giving people a significant buzz. The study is too complicated to share, but basically it boils down to this: People love what they love because it makes them happy.
I love Sunday mornings. I love the sound of the 8:30 congregation saying the Lord’s Prayer. I love the sun rising on the Resurrection window. I love the incredible sound of the choir right behind me during the anthem. I love the smiles, the hugs, the concerned questions and the honesty, authenticity and trust that flows between the people of this church family.
I love weaving. I find it relaxing, creative and it gives me an excuse to go to the yarn store. Without weaving, time in the yarn store would be called trespassing.
And, I love baseball. Not a shock is it? I’m not sure why I started liking baseball except that it was something I shared with my grandfather Curlee. He loved baseball with a passion that is hard to explain. He died in ’74, but I can still see him sitting in the dark in his bedroom with the orange glow of that huge console radio listening to KMOX and the Cardinals. I remember watching Dodgers games – yes Dodgers games – as a little girl with my Dad on a Saturday afternoon and thinking that Sandy Koufax was the most amazing athlete I had ever seen and he was left handed, which I thought was very cool.
Of course, then, at some point in my misspent youth, I gave up baseball in favor of the state religion of Texas – football – which I eventually ODed on at some point, switching to college basketball. But there was a lingering memory of the joys of baseball and on occasion, I’d turn on the TV on a Saturday afternoon and watch a game.
I found myself on a quiet, sunny 2002 Saturday, in Utica, New York one day, with nothing on my schedule, so I rented a car and took a lone drive to 25 Main Street, Cooperstown, New York and visited the Baseball Hall of Fame. Without doubt, I was in a “thin place” – one of those places where the veil between heaven and earth is very thin and you can reach from one to the other. As I strolled through the exhibitions and the Plaque Gallery, I realized that I wasn’t alone – I was spending this Saturday with my grandfather as I looked at the plaques and remembered the names he had talked about – Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch, Dizzy Dean and Terre Haute’s own Mordecai Brown. And I remembered things he used to say to me. “You have to wait until the last out to know how it all ends.” And “You could learn a lot by listening to baseball.” Boy, was he right.
And how blessed I am – and don’t I know it – that there’s a verse in the Bible that reads: There was a man sent from God, his name was John. And I married him. And he LOVES baseball. Couldn’t sit around our house without falling back in love with the game my grandfather taught me about and remembering all it gives.
You really can learn a lot of about life, from baseball. And a lot of what we learn is very much like what we learn in church. See, I think baseball and God have a lot in common. But maybe that’s because God is a huge baseball fan…. After all, the Bible starts with “in the big inning.”
How else would you explain a Cubs fan? Who can teach us more about faith – love and loyalty when all the statistics in the world say you should opt for a different team? I can’t think of anyone. And who, more than a baseball fan, understands hope. Every April, the world begins anew in the Advent of Baseball, what we call spring training – much like the season of spring when life and nature begins to grow again and the hope that comes to us at Easter.
And baseball has its own storytellers – not unlike those who shared the stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection until someone decided it needed to be written down. Baseball has its own scripture and so this morning, we begin with Opening Day Genesis:
In the big inning, God created Heaven on Earth. And it was without form, and void. God separated the dirt from the grass. He called the grass Outfield and the dirt He called Infield. God made the Infield a 90-foot square and the Outfield not less than 400 feet to center and 320 feet down the lines. He declared this Fair Territory. All other territory, God then declared, was Foul.
And God divided the players into two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, to play The Game on His field. God called some of these players Pitchers and some of them Hitters. He placed a Pitcher precisely 60 feet 6 inches from a Hitter. Then God commanded that it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ol’ Ballgame.
And God granted jurisdiction of The Game to lesser Gods, whom He called Umpires. God said the Umpires are infallible, blessed with Heavenly authority, whose judgment is not to be questioned under penalty of expulsion from The Game. And God looked at his creation and He was pleased.
Then God created the Infield Fly Rule to confuse nonbelievers.
And God said, Let there be light beer, and there was. And, God said, let there be peanuts and hot dogs and overpriced souvenirs and let there be frosty chocolate malts with little wooden spoons that you can buy nowhere else except at this Heaven, which God called a Ballpark, and there was. God looked at His creation and it was good.
And the Lord God formed, from the dust, a collection of elite players in His own image. The Lord God then breathed the breath of life into His creation. God called this creation the National League.
And God said, It is not good for the National League to be alone. The Lord God shall make it a mate. And thus, while the National League slept, God took several of its top players and created the American League.
And God blessed The Game, saying, Be fruitful and multiply. Put teams in every city with deserving fans, God added, even if this occurs at the expense of starting-pitching depth.
From time to time, God understood, The Game would be corrupted by the Serpent. The Serpent was more cunning than any other beast and he would take many wicked forms: the Black Sox, segregation, the Designated Hitter, the Reserve Clause, dead balls, juiced balls, spit balls, corked bats, George Steinbrenner, AstroTurf, the 1981 strike, collusion, lockouts, the 1994 strike, greenies, cocaine, HGH, Andro, steroids, $20 parking, corporate mallparks, Scott Boras, Donald Fehr, and Bud Selig.
But, God said, the goodness in The Game shall always prevail. As needed, the Lord shall bestow upon The Game a Savior. And the Savior, like the Serpent, can take many forms. The Savior shall remind Fans how blessed The Game truly is. The Savior shall be called by many names, including Cy, Matty, Honus, Big Train, the Babe, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Lou Gehrig, Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, Buck O’Neil, Hank Greenberg, Red Barber, Harry Carey, Jack Buck, Kruk & Kuip, Satchel Paige, Bill Veeck, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Hammerin’ Hank, Cool Papa, Dizzy, Lefty, Whitey, Stan the Man, Big Klu, the Say Hey Kid, Campy, Duke, the Mick, the Splendid Splinter, the Gas House Gang, the Big Red Machine, the Damn Yankees, Yaz, Pops, the Wizard of Oz, Fernando, George Brett, Moonlight Graham, Roy Hobbs, Wild Thing Vaughn, Bingo Long, the Ryan Express, Donnie Baseball, Rickey, Eck, the Big Unit, the Cactus League, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Camden Yards, Rotisserie Drafts, Web Gems, Derek Jeter, Vlad Guerrero, MadBum and, from the Far East, Ichiro. And, God guaranteed, there are many more to come.
God looked upon His creation and He was very pleased. And God spoke, yelling, PLAY BALL! And amen.
Ah, baseball and all it teaches us. Here’s just a little bit.
Life and baseball share a very important fact – No one is perfect. No player gets a hit every at bat. No pitcher wins every game. No team has a perfect season. As Tommy Lasorda once said, “No matter how good we are, we’re going to lose one-third of our games. And no matter how bad we are, we’re going to win one-third of our games and so it’s the other third that makes all the difference. Perfection is a dream – and not a reality. Living a successful life, a happy life, is learning how to navigate the imperfections and accepting them, knowing that forgiveness is ours. And errors are a part of life.
Francis T. Vincent, Jr., past commissioner of baseball wrote: Baseball teaches us, or has taught most of us, how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball, and precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often. I also find it fascinating that baseball, alone in sport, considers errors to be part of the game, part of its rigorous truth.
Baseball teaches us that there is always hope. Every season of baseball inspires the imagination. Every pitch is a new opportunity. It is not accident that baseball starts in the spring. The change in season reinforces this lesson, as nature is reborn and life reappears. Easter reminds us of the hope we find in our relationship with Christ.
Baseball teaches us that the little things are the big things. Have you ever been at a baseball game transformed by a badly thrown pitch? Have you ever seen a ball land just on the foul line, leading to the game-winning run? In baseball, as in life, the little things make all the difference and baseball reminds us that we need to keep an eye on the little things.
Baseball teaches us we are alone and we are together. In baseball, every player matters, yet only the team wins or loses. We play alone, yet we play for the team. The same is true in life. We are responsible for our choices, but we play through life with others. We play for our families, our work, our traditions and our God.
Baseball teaches us there is no time limit. When a ballgame starts, no one know whether it will be long or short. I’ve seen games run only two and a half hours. And I’ve seen them go six. Just Friday night, the New York vs Boston game went almost seven hours. But in baseball and in life, we stay in the game until it’s over – regardless of how much time we have.
One of the best lessons baseball teaches us is this: Everyone can get in the game. Height is crucial to basketball. Weight is critical in football. IQ is a requirement in chess. But all of these measurements are generally irrelevant for baseball. Anyone can play. Anyone can get lucky. All you need to do is suit up. That’s why baseball reminds me of church – there’s a place for everyone and everyone has something to contribute. Everyone has a skill that matters. Everyone has a gift that makes this a better place.
We are blessed in this church… and I feel blessed to sit down and spend a couple of hours with my husband and the memory of my dad and his dad and watch a game.
So… take me out to the ball game and bring me in to the church. I find they have a lot in common. And, this morning I leave you with a smile and the wisdom of Play Ball and Amen!