Tag Archives: Brooklyn Cyclones

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

The Until We Meet Again Tour – 15 July 2016

The Until We Meet Again Tour began in the offices of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations with an afternoon of recycling programmatic files. Then I hopped the 7 train and rode one stop to transfer to the D. The ride ended at Coney Island, which as my son Sean points out is not an island.

I walked to MCU Park to join friends from First Chinese Presbyterian Church of New York City for a Brooklyn Cyclones game. The group included Peng Leong, Vicki Louie-Shek, Jimmy Shek, Tony Chan, Will Tsang, Doreen Cheung, Brandon Louie, Jason Chan, Michael Sellers,Suzanne Yong-Sellers, Stephanie Travitsky, and Doug Bolan. Jim and Holly Nedelka from Jan Hus Presbyterian Church were also at the game.

I failed to get any photos of my friends, but several of them did and posted their photos on Facebook. If this works, here’s a gallery from Doreen.

I did get a photo of a couple of Brooklyn Dodgers who could play the game and who helped change our country.

IMG_3071

See you along the Trail.

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Why I like New York 38: baseball

Yankees.

Mets.

Cyclones.

Yankees (Staten Island variety).

Games in Central Park.

Games in other parks.

Baseball abounds in New York.

Two major league teams means the Pittsburgh Pirate come to town. Not often, but they do come to town. For those who bleed black and gold, me for example, that’s a blessing.

The weekend of May 17 and 18, the Pirates dropped two to the Yankees.

Today a three-game series began with the Mets at CitiField.

Members of the Columbia Theological Seminary Doctor of Class went to the game with me today. My friends Don Jang and John Gingrich also attended. As did Bob Brashear, a fellow Pittsburgh guy.

We saw a great game. And the Pirates came from behind to win. A Bucco win makes this an easier post to write, but baseball with friends is always pretty good.

With Bob at Pirates game

See you along the Trail.

 

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Baseball, Brooklyn style

The Dodgers have long since left Brooklyn, although my friend Jose insists they will return. That may happen someday.

photo (46) (800x421)But baseball  – part of our past in so many ways – remains part of our present in Brooklyn. A couple of strong throws and good relays away from Coney Island’s famed Cyclone, the Brooklyn Cyclones play. Affiliated with the New York Mets, the Cyclones play in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League. Interestingly enough, teams come from seven states, not just New York and Pennsylvania.

The Cyclones were league co-champions in their first season, 2001. They have not achieved such success since.

The team puts on a show: four mascots (as opposed to two umpires), cheerleaders, hot dog races, and more entertain fans between and during innings. Promotional giveaways happen often. I got a hat and a drawstring bag tonight. MCU Park puts fans right on the edge of the action. It also provides views of Coney Island rides, the beach, and the ocean. An awesome atmosphere.

And they play baseball.

Tonight, at the invitation of one of my summer interns, Marissa, and her father Bill, I joined members of Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church and Bay Ridge United Church and watched the Cyclones beat the Vermont Lake Monsters 6-4.

Each team manufactured their runs from base-hits (and a couple doubles) and aggressive base running. Two spectacular catches took place in the outfield with a Cyclone player running into the wall and holding the ball. Errors and walks also played a role. The Lake Monster outfielders threw out two Cyclones at the plate. A Cyclone outfielder, trying for a play at third, threw the ball into the stands.

Vermont opened the scoring. The Cyclones came back and took the lead. I the eight, Vermont scored three times and went ahead. The Cyclones answered with three runs and retook the lead. They then held on defense to win the game.

They play baseball. And that is very, very good.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Baseball, New York