U is for Umpire: A Secret Agenda?
A friend who was our parish secretary in the closing years of the last century recalls a certain baseball fundamentalism in yours truly. Then living in New York’s Hudson Valley, I was on record as holding baseball to be the most theological of sports. On top of that, I had a strong pro-Yankee prejudice. My friend notes that I have now gone nearly to the end of the divine alphabet before revealing my cards. Does theology conclude with baseball, she asks. If (as I recently wrote) U is for umpire, will we discover (she asks), when we get to Y, that God is a Yankee?
With the years, many sins and obsessions slide away, the gentle amnesia of memory letting us forget we were ever as crazy as we really were. My friend says that on one Sunday, when the Bronx Bombers were in trouble, I included the starting line-up in the prayers of the people. Perhaps they had just lost the World Series. Apparently, no one noticed except my son.
I do remember reading in the local newspaper that, since a baseball team had been founded in our county, we would no longer need to go to Shea Stadium to see minor league ball.
My daughter does not recall any of this. Instead, what is seared in her memory has to do with altars. We had built an outdoor stone altar dedicated to Saint Joseph. It was visible from the street and caught lots of sunshine. One day, I saw a cat sleeping on it. “Sacrifice!” I said.
She seems to remember references to cat sacrifice appearing in sermons from time to time.
It still seems to me that cats are instinctively pagan beings that belong more to Egypt than Jerusalem.
But I digress. What about God and baseball? Obviously the Father is depicted by the pitcher, the source and origin of the action of the game. The batter, I think, is the Son, who takes what is given by the Father and puts it in play. The ball itself seems to be the Holy Spirit. The rest of the team, and perhaps even the people on the sidelines and in the stands, are humanity, you and I, gathered together in a leisurely yet occasionally ecstatic enterprise, at once focused and unfocused. Sometimes we work and run and shout; sometimes we linger and watch.
The umpire—for those who are wondering how God could be in the game and also umpire—is God’s eternal law, active in the lovely ways that Psalm 19 says: perfect, sure, just, clear, clean, and true. God’s law is not words on a page but dynamic, ever distinguishing fair from foul.
Out & About. This Sunday, September 5, I am to preach at St. Philip’s in Sulphur Springs, Tex., the very center of the diocese of Dallas; the eucharist is at 11 a.m. If you ever visit this fair city, it is worth going to the town square to inspect their public toilets. They are clad in one-way mirrors. (There’s a sermon in that too.)