Fools That We Are
Baseball is back, and season of Lent or not, that totally deserves a hallelujah.
Son Karl and I have watched all three games of the season so far, and my daughter and exchange student as many as they could.
Each kid is now properly hooked on the game, learning the players, and seeing the importance of stats. We have enough Twins swag to go around, and I make amazing homemade Cracker Jacks, which I have on hand for every game.
The season’s opener also gave us reason (not like I need one) to watch Field of Dreams again, that marvelous movie of the late ‘80s which managed to capture the essence of baseball and redemption in 1 hour and 47 minutes.
Not entirely sure how many times I’ve watched that movie, and how many more times I could and will.
But for today’s blog purpose, a day known as April Fools’ day, I’ve got the notion of foolishness on my mind.
Plowing under the main crop at high season when you are on the cusp of bankruptcy?
Believing that there are ghosts in your field?
Chasing after a recluse writer and kidnapping him?
Driving to Chisholm Minnesota to chit chat with a dead player who doubles as a doctor?
Refusing to sell your farm because of a dream?
And yet, here we are.
And also yet, who really are the fools, as we, the movie goers, mouths filled with popcorn (or Cracker Jacks, as the case may be), and as Ray and Annie and their daughter Karin and Terrance Mann, know?
Why it’s the people who can’t see the dead guys playing on the blame field, of course,
Right after the players have finally come out to play for the first time, Annie’s brother, a banker, along with their mother and Mark’s wife Dee, storm out to Ray and daughter Karin, who are sitting on the bleachers, watching the boys of summer do their Thing.
MARK: I thought you two were going to watch some game.
RAY: Oh, I guess it’s not really a game. It’s more like a practice.
(MARK LOOKS AT THE FIELD AND SEES NOTHING. TURNS BACK TO RAY)
RAY: …See, there’s only eight of them, so they can’t play a real game…
MARK: Eight of what?
MARK: …Karin honey… what are you watching?
KARIN: The baseball men.
MARK: Do you see any baseball men right now?
KARIN: Of course I do.
MOTHER: I don’t think it’s very polite to try to make other people feel stupid.
ANNIE: You don’t see it?
DEE: That’s not funny, Annie.
(THE THREE WALK AWAY IN A HUFF)
ANNIE: They couldn’t see it.
RAY, GRINNING: Interesting.
The players were right there.
Or, rather, they were for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear.
It didn’t hurt to also be completely open to the accusation of being a complete fool, and, in fact, actually being one, by the standards of some.
One of the most irritating things for me as a Christian, not to mention as a pastor and theologian, is when I hear people to say that faith calls and claims, ones like welcoming the stranger, feeding the poor, sending the rich away empty, healing the sick, caring for her prisoners—Matthew 25 sort of stuff, for example—aren’t meant for us to really do.
”That’s not how the real world works,” they explain.
In these conversations, I feel like Annie talking to her sister-in-law: “ANNIE: You don’t see it? DEE: That’s not funny, Annie.”
I’m always a bit perplexed about how to respond to the dismissal of Jesus’s teachings, the very ones which got the guy killed, the very ones that led Jesus to say things like, “Take up your cross and follow me,” or “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”
These words and the ethic undergirding them are all rooted in the entire prophetic and personal history of Israel, and were echoed throughout the entire New Testament, not least in the second chapter of Acts, where the entire Christian community shaped itself around these essential tenets.
Like, if they are not supposed to be principles upon which we base our lives, why did Jesus bother giving them?
Given our teachings about the Reign of God in its fullness, it’s not like we’re going to need them then.
It’s as if Jesus could just as well have said, “Hell with it. The world doesn’t work like this anyway, obvs. So as for me and my house, since you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! The sick need to figure out healing on their own—it’s their problem anyway, amiright?—and the hungry should get a job—never mind the economic and power systems that make it damn rough for them to do so—and those dirty immigrants are clearly unclean in more than one way, so I’m throwing the first stone to Build That Wall! Who’s with me?”
(And the crowd of the comfortable goes wild)
I’m increasingly persuaded to forgo the term “Religious Left,” moved by those (like Rev. William Barber, eloquent and righteous champion of the Poor People’s Campaign) who say that the fundamental emphases of upending oppressive economic systems, of ensuring health care for all, of welcoming the strangers, of feeding the hungry, of calling out then rich and empowering the poor, isn’t Christian Left.
And you know what?
By the world’s standards, it’s foolish.
The apostle Paul totally got it.
We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day. 1 Cor. 4:10-13
And, for that matter, guess what.
Not only are there dead guys playing on that field.
There is a dead guy who any day now is going to be springing from a tomb.
You want a foolish belief?
That’d do it by any metric.
If you call yourself a Christian, you are publicly saying that you believe that Jesus died and was raised.
As long as you’ve already raised eyebrows with that mind-bending humdinger, you might as well make like Ray et. al. and live like you actually believe it.
I am fully aware that this is not heaven.
But it is Iowa. Or Minnesota. Or Alaska. Or North Carolina. Or Michigan. Or Washington D.C.
Live like you can see the dead guys.
Live like a Twins fan.
Live like the fool you are called and were baptized to be.
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