by Maria Evans
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of
faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you
promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
–Collect for Proper 25, p. 235, Book of Common Prayer
It’s probably apt that this collect rolls around in the middle of stewardship season for many churches. This year, I suddenly noticed the intersection of stewardship season and post-season baseball, and it got me to wondering: What if we simply looked at stewardship and the life of the church like devoted baseball fans look at a baseball season?
At the time of this writing, clearly, my beloved St. Louis Cardinals are out of it. But as I reflected on the season, some real truths emerged. In the spring, there’s always hope–rookies with promise, phenoms in the farms, healthy veterans. Somewhere around May, after the Cards made the late spring swing of West Coast road trips, I sort of got busy with my life and didn’t pay attention to baseball as much as usual. Oh, they were winning some and losing some, and a couple of big injuries caught my attention, but mostly, for me, baseball was on cruise control.
As is frequently the case with the Cards, though, they got hot in the summer and my attention was back on the upswing, and then in September there was the excitement that they were leading and the playoffs were a real possibility if they didn’t simply crash and burn. (There’s a reason Cardinals fans call their team the Cardiac Cards in September.) We made the postseason, but it was clear the injuries and the fatigue had caught up to us and we were defeated by the *sigh*…Cubs. Of all people. The Cubs.
Now I’m counting down the days till pitchers and catchers report, and watching the drama from a distance, as an interested observer, to see how other teams do it. Sure I’m sad “my team” was out of it, but there’s always next season.
Just the other day, I was telling someone, “You know why I love baseball best? There’s no clock. There’s not that feeling of defeat that this game is long over and we’re just killing time till the clock runs out. Something could change in the last out of the last inning with two strikes on the batter. Sure, a deep part of my heart says, “Arrrgh, this game is over”–but the way the game is designed, it’s built for us to act like something could happen. Back when I used to play softball, I remember how if we acted like something would happen, it did happen just enough times to keep us believing–even if I was playing on an awful team.”
The person I was chatting with replied, “That’s what faith is all about, isn’t it?”
I have thought about that phrase many times in the last few days–act like something could happen. Church stewardship drives can be very scary, depressing affairs. We all know the church is changing–in fact, some things about it are dying–but the God who makes all things new can’t possibly be done with us yet.
What if we simply act like something amazing could happen, and invest of ourselves, our energy, our time like it could–and if something didn’t work out, simply start counting down the days till we could all regroup and start over. What if churches all picked a day, maybe a month after the Annual Meeting, that we simply reported like those pitchers and catchers and we assessed ourselves like a well-oiled team starting a new season? Would we discover that our 3rd base player can pitch? Might we see someone on the bench who deserves more playing time? Could we realize that young adult over there should have a shot at leadership or spearhead a new ministry? It could be fun, exciting, and give us all a season to remember.
What might happen if we simply act like something will happen when we reflect on our life in the church?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. You can also share her journey on her blog, Chapologist.
image: Satchel Paige’s Major League debut as a member of the Cleveland Indians, July 9th, 1948