Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Do you want the ball?

My beloved Astros lost an absolute heartbreaker of a baseball game last night; a game that may go down as one of the most dramatic in postseason history. Now they have to go to St. Louis and win on visiting turf to get to the World Series. Houston has been waiting over 40 years to get to the World Series... no pressure, huh?

But athletes at this level don't worry about the pressure -- they thrive on it. I remember loving it when the game was on the line, and I was up to bat, or I was pitching. I lived for those moments. Times like that were why I played the game.

A few years ago, I was playing in a semi-pro league here in Houston. My wife Jamie and one of my friends (the Associate Minister at our church) were there watching, it was the final inning, two outs, tie game, and I was coming up to bat. As I walked to the plate, Jamie and our friend were right there across the fence. I looked at them, smiled, and took my place in the batter's box. She knew that the higher the pressure got, the more fun it got for me. When the game was on the line, I wanted the ball (or bat).

The Astros and Cardinals pitchers understand this. Earlier today, Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder said, "You want to be out there in an important game and be that guy who has got to make the pitches and get the job done." He and his teammates want the ball.

What about at church? Like any organization, churches have their problems. How many members, when times get tough, want to get involved and help find solutions? How many would rather sit aside and watch as others work? How many want to sit and criticize without investing any of their own time and energy? If a church is to manage crises and make peace in tense times, it has to have a sizable pool of people who want the ball.

Paul loved to use sports analogies to illustrate spiritual truths in his New Testament writings. Likewise, the baseball playoffs continue to give me ideas of what it means to be a Christian in 21st Century America. Pretty soon the playoffs will be over. The Astros might win, they might not... the world will go on either way. But God's kingdom will continue to need workers. There will be people in pain, hungry families looking for a meal, heartbroken widows and widowers seeking a shoulder to lean on. There will be spiritual seekers of truth, jaded members questioning their faith, and confused teenagers looking for guidance (though they won't admit it). This isn't a game, it's real life. Usually it's messy, difficult and consumes a lot of energy. God's looking for someone to step up. Who wants the ball?

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