Category Archives: Baseball

Candles, Fireworks, Hope

Romans 8:15-25
Candles, Fireworks, Hope
March 29, 2010
First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig

“In hope we were saved. Now who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

I think a lot about hope these days.

Singer and activist David LaMotte wrote, “These are hard days in so many ways. Much of the time, it seems like the headlines are in competition for the worst news. … Being alive is hard work. Some days, I don’t feel hopeful.”[i]

David wrote those words two years ago. The need to think about hope goes with us always. It presses upon us with urgency in the age of Covid-19.

Be clear. Hope differs from optimism. Dramatically.

Optimism says things will get better; things will work out as we want; things will happen in a way that fits our desires and understandings.

Optimism is important. Envisioning we can do something often plays a critical role in allowing us to succeed.

Hope is not optimism. Writer and politician Vaclav Havel, who resisted the communist rule in Czechoslovakia and worked for a new future for his people said, “Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit.”[ii]

Hope is the conviction that however things turn out, life will make sense and all will be well even when we cannot imagine that will be. Hope lies beyond our selves, beyond our capacities. Hope lies in God.

Hope can be elusive, difficult to experience. A quick look at world events and the lives of people we love underscores that. Covid-19 highlights this reality in a dramatic fashion.

How then do we keep hope alive? How do we sustain hope that the world can be different, that we can be different? That our lives have meaning and purpose? That we can contribute to a more just, loving, peaceful society?

I don’t know that my thoughts and prayers about finding and nurturing hope have led to any absolute answers to those questions that will work for everyone. I have some ideas to share that help me understand and sustain hope. Perhaps they will prove of use to you.

Hope is relational. I cannot hope on my own. Relationships are key to hope. Hope is like lighting candles in the wind.

I had been in New York for a little over three months when the people of southern Sudan went to the polls in January 2011. The northern and southern parts of the country had engaged in violent conflict since before Sudan achieved independence. A peace had been brokered. The treaty provided that the people of the south could vote to remain part of Sudan or to become their own country.

An interfaith community gathered at the Church Center for the United Nations to pray for the people of Sudan as they voted. After prayer and scripture reading and song in the chapel, we went outside to light candles.

Cold and wind and big, wet snowflakes greeted us on the sidewalk along First Avenue. We lit our candles, but we had to work together to keep them lit. We relit each other’s candles when they went out. We used fingers and song sheets to shield the flames.

Lighting candles in the wind is relational. It takes a community. So does hope.

To hope, I need to be connected to God. I need to pray and read Scripture and worship. To hope, I need to be connected to others.

Hope is relational. It is experienced in the grace of God and in the wonder and love others who hope in me, hope for me, and hope with me.

Hope is surprising. I can open myself to hope. I can nurture hope. I cannot command or control hope.

13669846_1180325505322138_3800535346819562182_nSummer 2016. A Brooklyn Cyclones game with members of First Chinese Presbyterian Church. I have no idea of the score but in the eighth inning the end-of-game fireworks went off. We looked at each other in surprise. From the row behind me and about three seats to my left, Will Tsang said, “Work that into a sermon, Mark.” (The photo is from that night and was taken by Doreen Cheung.)

Check that challenge off the list. Hope, like eighth inning fireworks, is surprising.

If a baseball story isn’t convincing enough, here’s a Bible story.

Luke’s Gospel recounts that on the Sunday after Jesus’ death, two of his followers walked to Emmaus. The death of Jesus had crushed their hope.

As they walked, a third person joined them. They did not recognize the person, but we, who read the story now, realize it was the risen Christ. The story reminds us that Christ comes to us as we travel on the Emmaus roads of life, in hospitals resisting Covid-19, in jails and prisons, in nursing homes, at meal programs and homeless shelters, even in our homes today as we use telephones to worship. Wherever we are.

When they reached Emmaus, the followers of Jesus invited the third person to stay and the evening meal. As their guest, they asked the traveler to say grace.

The traveler. Took bread. Blessed it. Broke it. Gave it to them. They recognized him. Hope was reborn. And Jesus left them.

Hope comes in surprising, mysterious, unexpected ways. The moments do not last forever. Sometimes they do not last for long. But the moments may fill us and bless us and sustain us for living.

Hope may surprise us in a word in a sermon or in the lyrics of a song or in a passage of scripture. Hope may break through when we receive a kind word. Or when a family member or friend acts in an unexpected way; when we receive grace or mercy in the place of vengeance and punishment; when we welcome one another as God’s beloved children.

Hope may sprout when we hear of the consistent, persistent courage of first responders and medical personnel; the grace of the people who bag our groceries and who clean hospitals, medical facilities, and other essential places; the commitment of business owners who care for their employees in hard times.

Hope does not come through individuals who suggest that others should be sacrificed for the good of the economy. Hope most certainly comes—most certainly comes when individuals make sacrifices for one another.

A Minnesota state trooper stops a cardiologist for speeding. Instead of a ticket, the trooper gives the doctor some of his own N95 masks. Hope. In Italy, people step out on their balconies to make music for each other. Hope. People who live near a hospital in Vancouver open their windows to clap for the medical and support personnel at shift changes. Hope.

Because God, through Jesus, is the source of hope, we live in hope. We live in hope even when life is painful and challenging and horrifying. Hope is an act of resistance and resurrection. Hope says – let the worst happen, God is not done. God who creates and loves us; God who raises Jesus from death to life; God who pours the Holy Spirit out upon us; God will have the final word. And it will be a word of life and love and grace and hope.

“In hope we were saved. Now who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Hope.

I have been thinking a lot about hope lately.

Like lighting candles in the wind, hope is relational.

Like baseball fireworks before the game ends, hope is surprising.

And rooted in God, hope is real.

Thanks be to God.

 

[i] https://www.davidlamotte.com/2018/hard-days/

[ii] https://www.vhlf.org/havel-quotes/disturbing-the-peace/

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Filed under Baseball, Current Events, First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, Friends, Photo, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, tennis, Worship

Recuerdo Roberto

Clemente

Graceful athlete
Dedicated humanitarian
Forever hero

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Filed under Baseball, Human Rights, Pittsburgh Pirates

18 August 2019

ClementeRoberto Clemente became my hero when I first saw him play. His commitment to justice and community involvement expanded my understanding of athletes and heroes. Feliz cumpleaños, Roberto. Te recuerdo.

Treadmill. Gym at Germantown Mill Lofts.
Core work. Stretching. Gym in Tricia’s apartment.
Take Me out to the Ball Game – Jaqueline Schwab
The Star-Spangled Banner – Big League Orchestra
Roberto – Ismael Miranda
Sueño Se Un Niño – Tito Allen
Somos La Fuerza Latina – Andy Montañez & Ismael Miranda
Roberto Y Tirabala – Andy Montañez
Orgullo De Borinquen – Lefty Pérez
Clemente (Estrella 21) – Edel Borrero
Jugando La Pelota – Jesús “Chocolate” Coombs
Jardonero Del Amor – Wichi Camacho
Lo Mejor Que Dios Ha Hecho – Angel Ramírez
Te Recuerdo – John McCutcheon
Forever Young – Pete Seeger with the Rivertown Kids

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Filed under Baseball, Exercise, Louisville, Music, Pittsburgh Pirates, playlist, Uncategorized

29 March 2019

This playlist was intended for yesterday, but for a variety of reasons I did not do a focused exercise period. Thus I used it today. One day after opening day.
Gym at the Shire. Treadmill. Walking a little faster. Slow jogging for 4 minutes. Stretching.
Take Me out to the Ballgame – Carly Simon
The Star-Spangled Banner – Branford Marsalis
Steal Away – Bobbie Horton
Right Field – Peter, Paul, & Mary
Clubhouse Stomp – The New York Hawkss
Jugando La Pelota – Jesus Coombs
The All American Girls Professionbal League – Rockford Peaches
Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio – Les Brown & His Orchestra
Cross That Line – John McCutcheon
Clemente (Estrella 21) – Edel Borrero
Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball – Natalie Cole
Jardinero Del Amor – Wichi Camacho
Baseball Boogie – Mabel Scott
Say Hey – The Treniers
We Are Family – Sister Sledge

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Filed under Baseball, Exercise, Music, New York, playlist

The Pirates win it!

IMG_8394.jpgFifty-eight years ago, on October 13, 1960, my father, a music teacher in the Neville Island school district,  took a day off and took me out of my first-grade class.

From Neville Island we journeyed to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

There we watched the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the New York Yankees in Game 7 of that year’s World Series (an interesting name now, but even more so at that time when all the teams vying for the title were located in the United States).

The heavily favored Yankees had won 10 pennants in 12 years. They won three games in this series: 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. The Pirates won the other three games by much closer scores: 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2.

Game 7 proved  a classic. The Pirates took the lead. The Yankees came back and went ahead. The Pirates regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Yankees tied it in the ninth.

Bill Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth inning for the Pirates. He took the first pitch for a ball. Then he drove the second pitch over the left-field wall. And the Pirates were the champions.

How much do I remember because I saw the game in person? How much do I remember because I have seen the pictures and the film and heard the stories? I will never know.

On the anniversary of the game, Pirates fans gather in Pittsburgh to relieve, remember, and recreate.

In 2009, a kinescope of the telecast was discovered in Bing Crosby’s wine cellar. Crosby owned a portion of the Pirates. A DVD appeared with the game. Tricia gave me a copy as a gift. Tonight, after the football games ended, I celebrated the past in the present as I watched the game.

“There’s a drive into deep left field, look out now… that ball is going, going gone! And the World Series is over! Mazeroski… hits it over the left field fence, and the Pirates win it 10–9 and win the World Series!” Mel Allen on NBC TV

And as it happens every time I watch the video or see a clip of Mazeroski pumping his batting helmet as he rounds the bases, I remembered my father. And my spirit warmed. And the smile has not left my face or my heart.

See you along the Trail.

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We Meet Again Tour – 26 June 2018

IMG-7645The Pirates played the second of their three games against the Mets. And the tour returned to Citi Field. The Pirates lost.

Teeth were gnashed.

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Filed under Baseball, New York, Pittsburgh Pirates

We Meet Again Tour – 25 June 2018

IMG-7644The Pirates came to town. And the tour went to Citi Field to see them play.

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Filed under Baseball, New York, Photo, Pittsburgh Pirates

We Meet Again Tour – 26 May 2018

IMG-7450Tricia came to town to join the tour over the Memorial Day weekend, arriving on Thursday, May 24. Friday was a work day that did bring a walk in Riverside Park. See the past several posts for photos of purple flowers.

Saturday morning, we volunteered with First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone at The Father’s Heart soup kitchen and food pantry. We met Sean for lunch. And, after a nap, we took the D Train to Yankee Stadium. We met Don Jang and Krystin Granberg for an amazing meal at the Audi Club buffet and great seats. Mike Trout had a five hit game and the Angels won.

 

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Filed under Baseball, Friends

A night at Yankee Stadium

I close my eyes, squeeze them tight,
for a moment the neon assault
that is Yankee Stadium fades away
and I find myself sitting again
in a wooden seat, peanut shells beneath my feet,
within the steel and concrete of Forbes Field
where hands change the numbers on the scoreboard
while Clemente lashes a double into the gap
and the odor of his pipe tobacco
rises from my father’s clothes.

27 May 2018
Manhattan, New York 

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Filed under Baseball, Family, Pittsburgh Pirates, Poem

We Meet Again Tour – 24 April 2018

IMG_7265The return tour to New York has continued although posts have not been made. Efforts will be made to address that.

Last night, the tour made its way to Yankees Stadium. The first time I saw the Yankees play was against the Pittsburgh Pirates on 13 October 1960. The Pirates, my Pirates, won. I have remained a Pirates fan every since through triumphs, and a whole bunch of losing and frustration.

But my friend Don had tickets from his work and so, with Don and our friends John and Jim, I went to the game.

The Yankees put on a show of power. CC Sabathia pitched well. And a fun time was had!

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Filed under Baseball, Friends, Pittsburgh Pirates, Sports