Baseball and the Kingdom
Last night, my fingers burned as I jumped back and forth between radio stations on MLB AtBat to keep up with the greatest single day of regular season baseball in history. On the last day of the regular season, eight games had playoff implications. After a day of hard work and after our evening Bible study (yes, I’m trying to spiritualize this as much as possible) I checked the scores and ended up being irresistibly fixated on the drama at hand.
Two of the more boring games were decided on late inning home runs, and those were just games to help determine home field advantage for teams already in the playoffs. Drama built over the next hour through spectacular defensive plays, sharp hits, long drives, and strange bounces. The Braves completed their September collapse and missed the playoffs by losing in the 13th inning to the Phillies. A few minutes later, the Red Sox also completed their colossal collapse by losing a one run lead to the Orioles in the bottom of the 9th after retiring the first the first two batters of the inning. Three minutes later, I listened to Evan Longoria’s drive clear the wall in St. Petersburg as the Rays beat the Yankees in the bottom of the 12th – lifting the Rays to the final playoff spot over the Red Sox.
I found myself on the couch completely engrossed in these story lines for about an hour, squealing like a little kid as the drama unfolded over the radio through my story-telling friends, the play-by-play announcers, with a little splash of color from the other commentators. When it was all over after midnight, I knew that I had gotten more for my money when I paid $15 for an annual radio broadcasts subscription than Red Sox owner John Henry got for the $160 million he spent this year. As I went to bed, my only regret was that my sons had not been awake to listen with me.
Why was it so much fun, I asked myself? Or why did I love to hear others reading stories aloud to me as a little kid? Or even as an adult? Is it not because God who has made is in his image is the greatest story-teller of all? All of our thoughts are derivative thoughts. No man has ever had an original thought. We just copy God when we have good ideas. Baseball, with all other sports in our culture, is corrupt in various ways – greed, immorality, idolatry, and Sabbath-breaking are present, and perhaps worst of all, too often we worship the game itself.
But the good that is seen simply reflects the goodness of God. Why is the last day of the baseball season the most exciting? Because the book of Revelation is the most exciting part of Scripture. Why is it so exciting to see the evil monster defeated in baseball (condolences to Red Sox and Yankee fans, but you can give thanks that the parallels to God’s story are not perfectly parallel)? Because that is a great theme in God’s work. Being caught up in the drama of the storyline last night was a blast, and today it is wonderful to know that as I continue about my work, I have the infinitely greater privilege of being part of the greatest story ever told. Life may be difficult, but what sheer joy that it is not boring. There may be a lot more drama yet to unfold, but we know the outcome and that in the end we who are in Christ will be before the throne of God and will serve him day and night in his temple because Jesus has triumphed for his people over sin and death.
Sometimes, God is pleased to use a great night of baseball to remind us of how exciting his grand narrative really is.