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Baseball, God's Favorite Sport

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     I made the provocative comment in a sermon once that baseball is God’s favorite sport. Someone called me on that assertion later and suggested that I defend it, so I will attempt to do so, with my tongue only partially in cheek! So, with some fear that someone will take me too seriously, here goes…

     First, I have to admit that the superiority of baseball among all sports is a truth to be discerned by natural revelation, not special revelation (Scripture). Contrary to some well-meaning but misguided expositors, there is nothing explicit in Scripture that indicates God’s preference for baseball (it doesn’t really teach that “in the big inning, Eve stole first, Adam stole second, and Cain struck out Abel”). But just as reasonable observation and experience in God’s creation show that strawberries are God’s favorite fruit, the guitar is His favorite instrument, and Pennsylvania is His favorite part of the earth, we can easily discern that baseball is His favorite sport. Consider the evidence:

     1. Baseball isn’t bound by time. There is no clock ticking away the moments and opportunities of the game. My wife would say, “Baseball games are eternal,” but she doesn’t mean it as a compliment. The game continues until the outs are recorded until the opportunities are exhausted. God is outside time and therefore would most enjoy a game that is not constrained by the clock. As Bill Veeck once said, “This is a game to be savored, not gulped.”

     2. Baseball is all about history and tradition. As Terrence Mann says in the movie “Field of Dreams,” “The one constant through all the years…has been baseball. America is rolled by it like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.” Baseball has been around since the early 1800’s, and no other sport has resisted change and basks in nostalgia like baseball, as anyone who has been to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown can tell you. Our God, who never changes and is the one true constant in history, must love baseball as a reflection of His own nature.

     3. Baseball is about perseverance. One hundred and sixty-two games are played every year. That’s twice as many as basketball and hockey, ten times as many as football. Baseball is much more like life in God’s design than other sports. It’s not about the quick sprints and hot streaks; it’s about who can stick it out over the long haul, game in and game out. And what other sport has so many players over 40 years of age still performing effectively?

     4. Baseball is the thinking person’s sport. Unlike most other sports, baseball is contemplative. There are moments of high drama, flashes of athletic brilliance, and outbursts of exuberance, but in between are quiet, still moments – times to think, to prepare, to plan and strategize. It is a game filled with complicated statistics, details, nuances, and precision, not pyrotechnics, cheerleaders, and brutal collisions. Our Creator must be pleased.

     In Revelation 21 the Apostle John describes a vision of the New Jerusalem, the center of the New Heavens and the New Earth. In verses 24 through 26 he says, “…the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it…they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.” I think that this means that the best, most beautiful, and most virtuous accomplishments of the nations will be redeemed and glorified in the eternal kingdom. Professor and writer Gerald Early once said, “I think there are only three things America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball.”  If baseball isn’t among America’s contributions to the eternal kingdom, I’ll be surprised!

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     I remember one evening when I was looking forward to watching one of the late-night talk shows. I heard that one of my favorite actresses would be making a rare appearance and I was anxious to learn more about what she was like. She had earned my respect and admiration not only for her exceptional acting abilities but also for her taste in movie roles. She always played characters who were noble, refined, classy, and intelligent. What a shock it was to witness her behavior during that interview!  It turned out that in real life she was crass, immature, self-absorbed, and self-indulgent. As disillusioned as I was, I did come away from the experience with a greater appreciation for her acting abilities, since her true personality was so radically different than the roles she played!

     I have never wanted to be an actor. I tried it once in high school and found no pleasure in it. Maybe it felt too much like real life – in many of the roles that I play in life it so often seems like I am only an actor. Many days, when I go to work I put on my “good pastor” mask and hope that no one will see through the façade. When I come home I exchange that mask for a “good husband” mask. When I call my friend, I have to do my best “caring friend” impression. Sometimes my weariness at the end of a day is just the emotional let-down after a series of performances.

     Of course, I’m not saying that any of these personas in my life are completely inauthentic, but the reality is not what I want the perception of others to be, so I keep playing the parts. They say that you can judge a great actor by how effectively he makes you forget that he’s acting. Sometimes my acting in the roles of my life is so bad that a child can tell that I’m pretending. But sometimes I act so well that even I forget that I’m pretending.

     During His earthly ministry, Jesus condemned no sin more vigorously than the sin of hypocrisy. Interestingly, the Greek word that is translated “hypocrite” in the New Testament, is a word borrowed from the theater, and it means “actor.” So a hypocrite is someone who takes on the appearance and plays the role of someone that doesn’t correspond to his real self. Jesus’ harshest language was reserved for His descriptions of the Pharisees, religious leaders who reveled in their reputation for deep piety and impeccable theology. Jesus, who could see all the way through them, said to them, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). He warned His disciples, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Luke 12:1-2). I can’t think of more frightening words; one day all of our masks will be ripped off of our faces, and we will be fully exposed. I could not bear that thought if I didn’t have the hope of the Gospel – I know that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I will be covered on that day with the robes of His righteousness.

     As a recovering hypocrite (yes, the church and her pulpits are filled with recovering hypocrites!) I know that my hope lies in two things: first of all, that God’s word promises me, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6). By His grace, what is good and true and admirable in me is more real than it used to be, and He will continue to change me. Second, the more I understand the grace that is in Christ, the less I need to fear exposure before God and others. I can be transparent, honest, and authentic… I can be me.

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