Grace and the Last Pitch
On the last Friday of March I was thinking about the beginning of the baseball season and some ways that the Christian life is like baseball. I called the piece Grace and the First Pitch.
Now it's the last Friday in October and the season has come to a wonderful and somewhat surprising end, especially for Phillies fans. And, yes, there was a certain grace in the last pitch. As Brad Lidge fell to his knees, we knew that it was more than the thrill of victory as he would explain in a postgame interview. There is always something becoming about giving thanks to God.
Now it's the fans' turn. The newspapers tell us that there will be a million people at today's victory parade.
The Apostle Paul knew about victory parades. The Roman triumphus was the festive celebration of a military victory. The conquering general would return to Rome in a great procession towards the temple of Jupiter where sacrifices would be offered. His lieutenants and legions would follow as well as the captured enemies led forth as the prizes of victory. The throngs would cheer and incense would be burned as a pleasing odor to the gods.
John Calvin, among others, believes that this is the image Paul has in mind when he writes to the Corinthians saying, "Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life."
Calvin holds that we are like victorious soldiers sharing in the triumph of our captain; others, as in the TNIV, see the Christian as a vanquished rebel. In either case, Paul's point holds. Christ has won the victory and we share in it only vicariously.
Nine Phillies were on the field with Brad Lidge threw the last strike of the 2008 baseball season. 31 other players filled the dugout along with their manager and coaches. And even if you count 45,000 fans in the stands, you're still a long way from the million folks who will line Broad Street and the millions more who will watch on television. But today the Philly fans share the joy of victory as if they had thrown the last pitch.
Christ alone is the victor over death and sin. But, graciously, he shares his victory with those he loves. Amazingly, in Christ you and I partake in his victory and in the joy of his relationship with the Father. And, somehow, as we grow in his joy and love, sharing his compassion and justice, we are like a sweet perfume delightful to God.
I'm going to catch a bit of the Phillies parade on television – just a passive viewer. But in Christ I'm called to be more than a passive viewer; I'm called to be an active participant in the coming of the Kingdom, knowing that the victory has already been won. Thanks be to God.
Grace and the Last Pitch