Friday, April 14th—the first Braves game at their new Sun Trust Park. First run scored, first homer, and best of all, first Braves’ win. How cool to sit among 41,000+ fans, all thrilled to be present for Opening Day, all pulling for the same thing, all rising to give Hank Aaron a standing ovation during pregame ceremonies. How cool that so many of the fans were Millennials, promising baseball is alive and well among the young. How cool to see Hammering Hank and Bobby Cox in a warm embrace. Sorry, Chipper and Smoltz; there’s a comradery among old men you kids will have to wait to enjoy.
Minor un-cools: the pitch count and speed of pitch on the scoreboard are too small to see. I’ll bet Hank and Bobby had the same problem, but they had Chipper and Smoltzie to ask. The people in the seats behind us talked incessantly, which is okay, but none of it was about the game. At crucial moments in the action, they’re discussing the best place for pizza in Gainesville and whether Scarlet Johansson was miscast in “Ghost in the Shell.” Clueless. Still, cools outnumber the un-cools by a landslide.
Sunday, April 16th—Easter, my last of thirty-two as pastor of Pleasant Hill Church, as I’ll be leaving just before advent. The first notes of trumpets on the opening hymn—always cool. Standing directly in front of the choir as the entire congregation sings the Lord’s Prayer. Singing at the top of my voice, I pretend to be one of the Three Tenors in concert, aware that no one can hear me anyway. Using jelly beans to tell the Easter story during the Children’s Sermon. (Yellow ones, for example, tell us of Mary, the first person to encounter the risen Jesus. Because Waffle House signs are yellow, and Waffle House serves streak-o-lean, and streak-o-lean rhymes with Magdalene, so yellow…). The moment before the benediction, when I realize I’ve set a personal record for the number of times I’ve fought tears in a single Sunday.
Un-cool: like Friday at the game, on Easter in worship, many people present are occasional fans. They’re delighted to celebrate the occasion, but have no deep interest in the game. Still, a sold-out, joyful crowd contributes a lot of energy. Uncool: The medical emergency in the congregation during the opening hymn. The congregation waited quietly for 10-15 minutes until the EMT’s arrive. Rushed to the nearest ER, he was pronounced fine, but advised not to return for the Children’s Sermon, even if jelly beans were being distributed. Again, cools outnumber the un-cools by a landslide, as they always do on Easter. (And baseball.)
“Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom,” says the Psalm. (90:2—The Voice Translation) The first ball game, my last Easter as pastor—experiences escalate in intensity because their numbers are finite. We grow aware we don’t have them forever, so they become treasures, immeasurable in value.
Teach me to number my days, not just the first and the last, but all the ones in between. Because all of them are gifts of countless worth.