A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, November 14, 2011

There Are No Mustard Packets in Baseball!

One cannot step twice in the same river-- Heraclitus (circa 580-540 BC)

I grew up as a long-suffering Cleveland Indians fan. I remember going to the old Municipal Stadium as a boy in the late 60s and early 70s. It was difficult enough filling such a large stadium each game with 70,000 people, but with the consistently terrible play exhibited from the Tribe, it was quite easy to walk up to the ticket counter fifteen minutes before the game and get lower box seats.

Even though my hometown team often lost those games I attended when I was young, it was still great to go to the stadium on a warm summer evening and watch the boys of summer playing right in front of my eyes. And what made the game even more special was getting a hot dog delivered to me right in my seat and watching while the vendor took out that yellow plastic squeeze bottle of brown stadium mustard and loading my dog down with that spicy and tangy condiment. Over the years that moment became my favorite part of the game.

Fast forward over twenty years... and now as an adult attending a sold out ball game at a new stadium, Jacobs Field, and watching a real good Tribe team in the 90s... I sat there and did something I hadn't done since I was a boy. I ordered a hot dog from my seat. The vendor took the dog out of his case and asked me if I wanted some mustard. What a silly question! A hot dog at a ball game without mustard is a sacrilege. As I responded affirmatively, he reached into a pouch and took out, not a yellow plastic squeeze bottle, but two small packets of mustard, and he handed them to me. What? Mustard packets? Was he serious? This is baseball! There are no mustard packets in baseball! Where's the squeeze bottle? Where's the sound of the mustard layering my hot dog! And by the way-- why is the dog smaller than the bun? When did that happen? I was truly irritated for the rest of the game. That vendor was messing with my traditions! How dare he rob me of a precious childhood memory!

Of course, in the big picture of life, how I received my mustard on my hot dog at the ball park made no difference. It was silly on my part, and I eventually got over it... well almost. But that little incident that took place only in my mind (I was smart enough not to say anything to the vendor) was a reminder to me that change, even a little change, can be difficult. The only problem is that change is one of the constants of life. The present moment is hardly a fleeting moment in time. The minute we realize we are in the present, that realization is relegated into the past to give way to the always encroaching future. But as difficult as change may be, we better adjust to it; we better get used to it. If we fight change, we fight against life itself. If we refuse even to acknowledge change, not only will we not live life well, but we will not approach death well either. Death, like change, is another constant.

In the church we use the language of change all the time. We speak of conversion and transformation and sanctification, and yes, we even periodically use the term "change." Jesus Christ did not come into our midst to leave us unchanged. The lordship of Christ necessitates change for the world. One would think that the people of God, the church, would relish change considering that it seems to be at the core of what we are about. But it appears that often the opposite is the case-- the church is the place where change comes the least and where it is often resisted vehemently.

I do not speak of change for its own sake; nor do I speak of the kind of change that is nothing more than the momentary fashionionable winds blowing in our culture. I speak of change that happens simply because time continues to pass and we have no choice but to respond. The church of 1957 has passed and it is not going to return. And no amount of doing church 1957 style will revitalize the church no matter how well we might do 1957 church.

And yes, I know that only Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit can revitalize the church, but Christ intends to do that through his people.And such revitalization cannot take place until we individual disciples are revitalized ourselves... until we attend to the practices that make for disciples. And if Christ is going to make disciples through us, we must first be disciples-- and that involves change.

When I was a boy, I used to fish in the Chagrin River in Geauga County in Northeast Ohio. I had a favorite spot where my brother and I would spend the day. Years later, as a young man, I returned to that spot for a few moments just to see it again. It had changed. The tree branch I used to sit on over the river was gone. So was the little sandy bank where I would place my tackle box. Heraclitus was right: we cannot step into the same river twice. Change is necessary; change is constant; and change is hard.

I should know. I still don't like getting handed mustard packets with my hot dog at the ball game.

1 comment:

Chuck Tackett said...

Good post Allan, though I find it a little hard to believe that you didn't make some kind of snide comment at the game about the mustard.

I'm glad you mention the distinction between change and 'fad'. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between the two. Often we find the forces of culture pounding on us to change...our beliefs about life, relationships, ethics and morality. Yet the change it is trying to "encourage" us to accept is usually not rooted in our faith and often quite contradictory to it.

So the context of change in the church becomes even more difficult and requires more trust in God and our brothers and sisters in Christ because if we don't trust, we won't change.