E-pistle October 17

1. Why the Phillies Matter to God
2. Why God Loves Ninth Graders


1. Why the Phillies Matter to God

God and sports is one of the great debates in what is left of America’s civil religion.  In post-game interviews, touchdown receptions and homeruns are not infrequently attributed to the providence of God.  Diehard fans publicly acknowledge their team to be “America’s team,” but secretly know that it is, in fact, God’s team.  We once lived an hour north of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I know about these things.
I’m an agnostic, at best, when it comes to God’s biases in regards to sports franchises, but our Reformed tradition tells me that sports, like all things, are under God’s dominion.  The Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, is famously quoted as saying, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!' "
So what does God make of baseball, and specifically, what is his sovereign claim over the Phillies and their World Series prospects? 
The preacher of Ecclesiastes, having stated that there is a time for everything, and that God has made everything beautiful in its time, goes on to say that there is nothing better for us than to be happy and good while we live.  He is not speaking of deep joy or meaning, which he finds elusive, but the kind of happiness that is almost melancholy in its own way.  It is the happiness that comes from good bread and wine and loyal companionship – as long as it lasts. 
In the midst of economic and political anxieties, the happiness that the home team brings its fans, fleeting as it may be, is a good thing.  Common grace, the theologians call it; the sending of the rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Go Phillies!
2. Why God Loves Ninth Graders
This evening at 6, our confirmation class members and teachers will begin a 40-hour retreat at the Tel Hai Retreat Center about an hour west of here.  It will be my privilege to join Carol Casten, Chet Marshall, Barb Chase and the kids for the first 28 or so hours. (We’ll miss Joe Franzi, who is unable to attend.)  I’ll head home Saturday night in order to join you in worship on Sunday morning.  The thematic focus of the weekend is prayer and the relational agenda is trust, friendship, communication and fun. 
The fall retreat is a cornerstone of the confirmation program at LPC, that journey of faith that has been charted in such a way that by June our ninth grade students are prepared to make their decision as to whether or not they are ready to make the baptismal promises their parents made their own or, if unbaptized, to confess their faith and receive the Sacrament. 
Kids and leaders alike will be reminded of models of prayer – certainly and most importantly, the Lord’s Prayer.  But we’ll also look at that helpful ACTS acronym (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).  We’ll look at the several prayers from the great prayer book of the Bible, the Psalms. 
Underlying our weekend is the foundational conviction that our God is a God who communicates. It’s his nature to speak to us, and, amazingly, it’s been built into our nature to long to talk with him.  Of ourselves we always end up talking to the wrong thing – idols of wood or silver, fleeting feelings or the imagined gods and goddesses of the universe.  One of the particular graces of the Gospel is the coming of the Spirit who teaches us how to pray and guides us in our prayers, even so that we may call God “Abba,” Father.
Pray that God will accomplish his purposes for the retreat.  Pray for safety and wisdom, for good fellowship and fun games.  But pray, especially, that our students will not just learn the content that’s given them, but that the Creator of the whole universe desires nothing more than that they would learn to talk with and listen to him because he loves them and knows exactly what it’s like to be a young adolescent.  They’ll never find a better friend. 
God loves ninth graders because he made them and he has redeemed them.