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Play Out The String
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58881859435 12d7c17e e823 4f33 9a99 e46e3a5c8b9d e1567457268435 225x300Last week I had the chance to attend a baseball game at Coors Field (thanks, Rick DiFiore!) between the Colorado Rockies and my favorite hometown team the Pittsburgh Pirates. I’ve been a baseball fan nearly my whole life, ever since I went to my first game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh in 1971. I’ll never forget that first moment of walking into the ballpark and seeing the great expanse of green, hearing the crack of the bat, and watching my favorite player, Roberto Clemente, throw a frozen rope from right field to nail a runner at third base.


The 70’s were heady days for the Buccos (as we call them back home). The team won two World Series in 1971 and 1979 and were competitive most years in between. It was a great time to be a fan and I spent many nights falling asleep listening to Bob Prince call the games on KDKA through my little red transistor radio.


But it’s now some 40 years later and the Bucs have fallen on hard times. Other than a couple of brief spurts of flirting with glory in the early 90’s and a wild card playoff run a few years ago, it’s pretty much been a litany of misery for those of us who love the black and gold. Last Thursday night at Coors Field, Rick and I watched two teams that, once again, are going nowhere after the end of September. The playoffs are a distant dream. Now it’s all about playing out the string of games that are left.


It was still fun to watch the Pirates pound the Rockies at least for one night (actually, they swept the weekend series) but it was still a little sad to know that there’s no championship on the horizon; no ultimate victory. A win on the road in late August or early September is nice, especially for young players trying to make their mark, but otherwise the victories are Pyrrhic and all the talk is about “next year.”


It’s interesting to think about all that as I’ve been working through this sermon series on the Book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends clearly have a few victories under their belt in the early chapters of the book, but at the end of the text, Daniel is still in exile, the powers that be still rule, and hope is hard to come by in the near term. While Daniel maintains his faithfulness to God, it had to be tough; feeling like more losses than wins, fewer people in the stands, an early exit. Daniel’s last years in Babylon may have felt like he was simply playing out the string.


But I do get the sense that Daniel was an optimist despite the apparent slump his people were in. As we get into the later chapters we will see Daniel dreaming about something new over the horizon–dreams about God’s kingdom, dreams about a coming “Son of Man,” and dreams about “resurrection.” These are the kind of dreams that sustained God’s people even when the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans oppressed them. They were the kind of dreams that the early Christians held on to despite losing large numbers of people as martyrs. The words at the end of the Passover Seder are always full of hope: “Next year in Jerusalem!”


Hope drives both the fans of lousy teams and the people of God. The advantage God’s people have, however, is that we know who wins in the end–who the real “world champion” is. Daniel was an optimist, always looking ahead to “next year.” It’s a good reminder to those of us who may be depressed about the state of the world. God is still at work behind the scenes, developing missionary draft picks, strengthening his bench, warming up a new generation. God knows exactly what it takes to win and make all things new.


It’s a reminder that we’re not just playing out the string. It’s not just next year; today is an opportunity to live like the victory is already won–because it is!


BTW – If you’d like to catch up with our sermon series on Daniel, check out the sermons here. You can also download the Tri-Lakes UMC app from your app store.

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