Baseball, Dreams, and Pentecost
By Rev. Gary Lewis
June is baseball season. One of my favorite baseball movies is the 1989 flick Field of Dreams. The movie took a lot of film critics and entertainment executives by surprise. This quirky, quiet little film about an Iowa farmer who listens to the advice of a disembodied voice and builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield has become a symbol of hope for thousands of people suffering from severe “dream-deficiency.” Field of Dreams struck deep chords in the American psyche – offering a positive alternative to an American Dream that for too many has become a nightmare.
June 5 is Pentecost. This is a day for remembering where the church came from, how the church came to be, and for asking what on earth the church is for and where in heaven’s name the church is headed. This is the day when we should envision what the church could be, what its field of dreams would look like – and to start working to bring that dream to reality.
The truth is that the church – contrary to the rumor of its immediate demise – is still in God’s hands. The church’s future is never predictable or plotted out because the Holy Spirit is the animating breath of the church. It can blow up storms and whirlwinds without any notice.
Those naysayers who can only bemoan its decline just don’t get it. They don’t “get” that the Holy Spirit will do its work, that the hand of God is still upon us, that the future is where our field of dreams still lies.
Ignoring those results in our divided world is a death knell. Congregations that refuse to get with it, to look forward to the future instead of wishing for some mythical good old days, will die spiritually, if not physically. But the church itself will not.
To make the church once again into a field of dreams, we must reclaim our Pentecostal heritage. The Bible, in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, reveals there was a period between Christ’s resurrection appearances to his disciples and the day when the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. Surely these must have been days of excitement and high expectation. They waited on tiptoe for the coming Holy Spirit.
If we are to emulate these first disciples, we too must stand expectantly on tiptoe. But to keep on our toes will require four other postures from the church:
GET ON OUR KNEES: For the church to keep on its toes, it must first get on its knees. The church must learn how to pray together and praise together. Of course, worshiping God isn’t restricted only to church, but too often church is the last place people expect to have a spiritual experience. The church needs to be strengthened each week with worship that is God-breathed, Christ-centered and Spirit-driven.
We pray, most every Sunday, “Come, Holy Spirit, Come.” Is the Holy Spirit really welcome in our Sanctuary? Will we allow it to push us to our knees at unexpected moments? Does anything ever bring tears to our eyes? Can the Spirit make us smile, or even laugh at loud in church? Church is not just the place where we come to “think about God” for one hour out of the week. It is a place to feel God with all our emotions and all our being.
POUR OUT OUR HEARTS: It is easy to forget who and what the church is. Good organizational practices can often lead to an inordinate amount of time focused on the business of the church and lead to organizational busyness. The church is not an organization but an organism of which we are living members. Pentecost reminds us that our purpose is to be none other than the body of Christ. We do not need a nice building, good music, well-run Sunday school, or clergy wearing skinny jeans. We need the Spirit of Christ, and we need to pour out a heart filled with self-sacrificing love.
EXTEND OUR HANDS: Like the old saying goes, “People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care about them.” We cannot stay within our four walls and expect the community to respond to our invitations. We need to become the hands and feet of Christ in this increasingly secular culture that surrounds us.
SPREAD OUR WINGS: Finally, the church must be willing to “trust the Spirit.” We cannot take flight under our own power – it requires faith and trust. The church has let reason and rationalism dictate its course of action for too long. Lacking in faith and trust, we have opted for predicting every contingency and answering every imaginable question before daring to step forward. Those days must end. This is what building a church that is a “field of dreams” takes – the willingness to spread our wings and step off the edge, believing that the Holy Spirit will lead us forward into the future