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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

Take me out to the ball game!
July 19, 2011

The first time I ever attended a Pittsburgh Pirates game was a number of years ago, when Tammy and I treated our elementary-aged nephew and niece to a taste of the big leagues. They didn’t know or care much about baseball, but they did look forward eagerly to one thing – the chance to join thousands in singing a song they’d learned at school, “Take me out to the Ballgame.” The action on the field bored them to tears, but they hung in there, sustained by fervent anticipation of joining the big choir in song. And sure enough, after the top half of the seventh inning, everyone rose to their feet to sing the long-awaited song, and they joined in at the top of their lungs, thrilled to be part of something so grand. I’m not sure who won, because as soon as the song ended, they were ready to split – still, they begged us to take them out to another ballgame.

The thrill of the game is about so much more than who wins. Of course, winning isn’t a bad thing, as this year’s Pirates box office testifies. But we go to the ballgame for many reasons other than seeing our team win. We can see our team win quite nicely by sitting at home and watching the game on TV – in fact, we see the plays much better from the living room couch than from the grandstand, and at home we have the added bonus of great color commentary from the announcers. So why buck the traffic, struggle with parking, endure baking heat or icy rain, and pay way too much for the tickets and concessions – things that only distract us from what’s happening on the field?

We go to the game because we find great satisfaction being in company with others who share our passion. Sharing the experience with people who care about the same things we do heightens its delight. We stoke the fire of our passion by practicing it in concert with others.

We could have sung “Take me out to the Ballgame” at home, along with the fans we could see on TV, I suppose. But that wouldn’t hold a candle to being there in person to join our voices with the great throng. By nurturing what we love in company with others, we grow to love more deeply and passionately.

As you might guess, I have more in mind than ball games. When we gather as God’s people to worship the One whom we adore, we strengthen our love for God and our devotion to Christ’s mission. Our passion for the Gospel is strengthened when we live out our calling together, and weakened when we try to live it out separately. Perhaps this is why the Bible, in both testaments, emphasizes the importance of our coming together as God’s people – in festival, in worship, for teaching, for prayer. Sometimes the gatherings are small, but sometimes they include all the people. Both kinds of gathering are needed to keep us motivated and engaged in our God-given mission.

Tomorrow night, July 22, Pittsburgh Presbytery is going out to the ballgame, literally. It’s Pittsburgh Presbytery night at the Pirates game, and I encourage all of you who can to come be part of the festivities. A mass Presbyterian choir will sing the national anthem, and we will be launching a brand new mission endeavor, “Home Runs for Hunger,” through which Presbyterians will contribute $100 or more for each home run hit by the Pirates in the remainder of this season. Each time a home run is struck, Pirates’ radio and TV announcers will note that they have just launched another $100 to combat hunger in our community. For more information on this initiative, including information on how you can participate, please click here. We hope and pray that this innovative partnership between the Pirates, local Presbyterians, and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank will encourage our community to become more engaged in fighting hunger in our midst, so that no child in our community will go to be hungry. Let’s play ball!

For the sake of Christ’s mission,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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