U is for Umpire

U is for Umpire

    You want sports analogies for God? Here’s one. Actually, it’s not even an analogy, it’s just a fact. God is the umpire in the game of life. You want to know if a play was fair or foul, if a ball was a strike? Ask God.

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    We don’t have a game without rules, and rules are all about drawing lines between right and wrong, in or out, fair or foul. Of course, just following rules doesn’t make you a good player. There’s more to a game than its rules! But rules establish the boundaries of a game; they give it its shape. Rules are necessary.

    Therefore, umpires are necessary. There has to be an authority who says what has just happened. “It was a strike” is an interpretation of what has just happened between pitcher and batter and catcher. We need umpires just so the game can go on. We need good umpires so that we have a general sense that the game is being fair.

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    Consider this. Yesterday you got angry with a friend. You’re wondering, was I right to be angry? The Bible gives you guidance about anger. It turns out to be a rather complicated thing. Saint Paul in Ephesians says “Be angry but do not sin!” It seems there are instances of anger in the game of life where anger is a good play. But there are also times when to be angry is to foul or strike out—that is, to sin. How can you know which is which?

    Were you right to be angry? Well, you study the rules and you study your heart. You ask your teammates. You get your coach to help you. But at the end of the day, what you need is the umpire to speak on the matter authoritatively.

    That’s something God does. At the end of the day, God calls the rightness or the wrongness of every play of your life. Some things you did were simply sins; other things were not sins; and a lot of things were mixed up. God makes it all clear.

    Human life would be a hopeless mess were it not the case that there is an ultimate judge of what is human and what is inhuman. To have a meaningful life, we need a really good umpire. That’s why it is good news that, in the divine alphabet, U is for Umpire.

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    Out & About. I will be leading a discussion of Our Town by Thornton Wilder in October. It seems to be in the post-covid, coming-out air. Recently, Terry Teachout, the awesome theater critic of the Wall Street Journal, reviewed an outdoor performance of it, this summer, at Peterborough, New Hampshire. One wishes one could have been there: https://www.wsj.com/articles/our-town-thornton-wilder-stage-manager-portsmouth-players-gordon-clapp-11628200433?reflink=share_mobilewebshare

 

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."