Is it a happy coincidence that Opening Day of baseball season usually comes in Holy Week, or that baseball coincides with a season of resurrection and new beginnings (while football season coincides with the dying of light)? Or is it a blessed providence?
This year, Opening Day in Denver falls on GOOD Friday. In some ways, it can’t get better than that! As a lover of baseball, I mention these things to get under the skin of my football loving friends. Unfortunately, they are never converted by my comments, only irritated.
But this year I have a real dilemma. I almost always go to the Opening Day ceremonies and game. It is a wonderful occasion—an all day affair, filled with celebration. As one writer said, “opening day is more than a game. It is a metaphor.” The warmth of Spring and Summer is returning. The green is coming back. Flowers burst forth from the thawing ground. There will be another chance. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said, “Opening Day is right up there with Christmas and your birthday.”
My dilemma is that it I am scheduled to preach on Friday night and to lead our Good Friday Service. Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church makes a big deal about Holy Week. We actually have 15 services from the beginning of Palm Sunday to the end of Easter Sunday. We want people to enter in and make an internal spiritual pilgrimage out of it—slowing down their week, and walking in the footsteps of Christ. On the Christian calendar, there is no week like it. Since the early centuries the events of this week and Resurrection Sunday have been the high points of the Christian year. It celebrates the work of Christ—His sacrificial atonement for the sins of the world and His glorious resurrection over death.
So I asked my wife, “what should I do this year on Good Friday? Can I go to Opening Day and still coherently preach in the evening?” I was hoping she would come up with some way in which this would all be possible. But knowing me, she wisely said “no you can’t” She’s not a killjoy either. She’s a realist.
You see, if I went to both, there would be two contrary emotions battling it out inside of me—the celebration of a new baseball season, and the deep sadness of what sent Christ to the cross.
So I said to her, “yes but what if the Rockies lose (which they often do on Opening Day), then the emotions would not be contrary—it would be a total day of sadness and introspection.”
Realizing my desperation, and knowing my capacity to rationalize about such things, she said “first things first.” Humm. Ouch.
So, the self-denial of Lent is taking on new meaning for me this year. I am not giving up anything so trivial as chocolate. I am giving up my Spring ritual!
But she’s right. For it is still only a game. And reality intrudes. The essence of fanaticism in sports is to make the game everything, to the extent that it crowds out what is truly important. In a world of missile launches, cancer, and mass shootings all fueled in some way by human depravity, we need something more than a game to overcome it and make sense of it all.
That’s reason enough to give our first attention to the cross and resurrection. For they are first things.
As for Opening Day? For this baseball fan, it will have to be— “wait till next year!”