Cricket, Connections, and Context

Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash

Homework

Hearing someone describe the sport of cricket reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ grinch kvetching about Christmas morning chaos. “And they’ll play noisy games like zoozit and kazay, a rollerskate type of lacrosse and croquet!” 

Mixing bats, balls, wickets, and bowling sounds like a sport that can’t make up its mind. 

It even adds a nod to the moral universe when it explains that Rajeshwari Gayakwad, a world class player from India, bowls slow left-arm orthodox, a term that conjures priests more than it does athletes. 

This means, by the way, that she spins the ball with the fingers of her left hand, attempting to trick a batter into believing the ball will strike the ground and bounce one way when it will, in fact, go quite the opposite direction. Spin bowlers rely on deception rather than speed (hence the addition of slow in the description) to strike out their opponents.


Why do I know this? I’m taking a Master writing class (veery slowly) from Malcolm Gladwell. He’s who I want to be when I grow up. The first assignment was to accept a randomly generated topic and write an article about it. My assigned topic? Rajeshwari Gayakwad.

You won’t be surprised I’d never heard of her, given my obvious knowledge of cricket. I thought—how can I write an article on this person and sport I don’t really know, or care, one bit about? 

Then a funny thing happened. The more I read about her, the more interested I became in cricket. By the end of the article, I was googling world titles, country stats, and discrimination in India like I wanted to write a book on it. 

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Commonalities

I’d found commonalities with Raj. She also lost a parent very young. The feeling of responsibility that creates toward the surviving parent empowers her, while it nearly destroyed me. 

She knows what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s profession. She understands far more than I do how a culture can work to hold women in their assigned places, even and especially talented, ambitious ones. Her defiant post— “I Was Told Cricket Is Not A Girl’s Game,” resonates with this woman who was told the same about pastoring.

She wants to make her profession better for the women who come after her, as do I.

A woman on the other side of the world suddenly mattered to me. Her success at playing cricket, inspiring girls, and buying her widowed mother a house mattered. It mattered because I had taken the time to learn about her, even when I thought it was a strange assignment on an uninteresting subject. 

The correlations should not be lost on us. 

First, there are a lot of people on the other side of the world right now in need of compassionate comprehension. The Afghan crisis is one that requires our attention, but it also requires our effort to learn before we begin to post ALL the opinions. As has been mentioned on twitter, it’s funny how many people suddenly pivoted from being epidemiologists to foreign policy experts. 

That might mean listening to or reading the stories of refugees to find commonalities. Common ground brings out our compassion and our willingness to learn more. As losing a parent made me care about Raj more, so maybe discovering you share an occupation or a goal with a refugee can bridge the language and culture barriers. Driving Afghan refugees to doctor’s appointments gave me a window into how dangerous it was for them to assist the US military—and it gives me compassion and fire to do something now.

Before we dismiss the desperation of others we know nothing about, let’s delve into their stories so that we can find what makes us alike, not fear what doesn’t.

(Read some refugee stories here, for instance.)

Photo by belinda Fewings on Unsplash

A Foreign Language

Another correlation is quite different—it’s in the face that we in the church show others. Hold onto your pearls—those who don’t go to church find some of our language—and even Bible stories!—quite odd and disconnected to their lives. It’s like the rules of cricket. Unintelligible words and rules that they don’t see a reason to care about and certainly don’t want to run afoul of. 

Pastors, leaders, preachers—how can we make our speaking about the Bible make sense, and be interesting, to those for whom it’s a foreign language about an obscure sport?

How are we creating correlations between their lives and the Scripture? I don’t mean an up-to-date illustration here and there. I mean,

how are we creating walkways between life in the Bible and life in the now in a way that makes people take notice and care? 

In my monthly newsletter, I mentioned the Theology of Work Bible commentary—it takes the Scriptures and correlates God’s ideas about work to people today who are seeking meaning in what they do. 

This summer in church, we studied Romans—and talked about the strong correlation between believers who judge and look down on one another then and now.

Photo by Luke Besley on Unsplash

Bridging. Correlating. Creating connections that make people care about something they didn’t think they cared about.

This is good discipleship.

That’s our job as pastors, whether it’s teaching Scripture or teaching love of neighbor. We are given this task of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5.16-20) That’s what bridge-building is. It’s the work of the kingdom at hand.

Does God Send Judgment?

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I’ve started a new thing over on my author Facebook page, and maybe you’ve seen it. It’s called Theology Thursdays, and in it, I’m taking tricky theology questions and talking about them for five minutes (or less). Usually less. As I said this morning, I won’t always have answers, but I’ll always have an opinion.

Today, I’m sharing one of those here, in written form, but if you want to see the videos, check out my Facebook page, and be there on Thursdays at 11am!

So this morning, this question, not surprisingly, ended up being asked:

Is COVID19 a judgment from God?

Yes, some people are saying this thing. OK, so they’re probably the same people who’ve said that lots of things were judgments from God, like AIDS, earthquakes, tsunamis, Pierce Brosnan and Russell Crowe’s singing voices . . .

I’m not, as you know, into conspiracy theories, nor do I like to speak for God and decide when he is or isn’t raining down judgment on people. Particularly since those people who do enjoy doing so always manage to decide judgment is coming down on those with whom they disagree or find fault.

So there’s that.

But let’s look at this seriously, because it is serious, and it is worldwide, so that’s God’s territory.

Problems with the Logic Thing

A couple problems emerge with the idea that COID19 is a judgment from God. One, look at who is hardest hit by this virus. Statistics are telling us that some folks are getting sick and dying in numbers disproportionate to their percent of the population—and who are these people? The poor, urban African Americans, the elderly, the already sick.

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Photo by Astemir Almov on Unsplash

Those getting sicker faster are the ones who can’t stay home because they’re working in service industries and getting paid minimum wage to serve you and me or to clean our hospitals and grocery stores. They’re the ones who have to ride crowded public transit and live in crowded apartment buildings. The ones who have zero say in who comes home from work potentially infected.

To say, then, that this is a judgment from God is to devalue those people. It’s to say that God is somehow against or angry at our most vulnerable humans, and that is unequivocally, absolutely wrong.

In fact, God has special concern for the poor and the oppressed—the Bible says so many, many times. (Deuteronomy 10.18, for instance.) So calling this God’s judgment is not only a dumb thing to say, it’s damaging and dangerous for the most vulnerable people in our society, and it’s an insult to God. It’s actu\ally using his name in vain.

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Photo by Corey Agopian on Unsplash

When God commands that we not use his name in vain, he doesn’t mean no swearing. What the words in Exodus mean is that his people are not to ascribe to God things that are not at all in his character. Don’t claim that God is in or behind something that clearly defies his holy lovingkindness. If we do, we’re taking God’s name in vain. For real.

Saying this is to defy those two things Jesus made a pretty big deal of: love your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

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The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God. (Hebrews 1.3) Photo by Virgil Cayasa on unsplash.com

Here’s the deal—God says in 1 John he is love. He says in virtually all the prophets he cares for the vulnerable. Jesus goes around healing, not striking down people, and Jesus is the exact copy of God the Father, according to Hebrews. Here’s a good rule of thumb—if you can’t imagine Jesus doing it, based on what you see of his actions and words, then God he Father wouldn’t do it, either.

So no, COVID19 is not a judgment from God. I can’t speak for God on whether he ever does the judgment from heaven thing. I’m not God—I don’t get a yeah or nay vote on what he can or can’t do. If he chooses, he certainly can. I’m just saying that this isn’t what it looks like if he does.

This is also not to say he cannot and will not work good things from it.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8.28

He can, he will, and he does promise that for those who love him, he is going to work good from even the hardest things. So maybe let’s concentrate on loving him, not figuring out whom he might be judging. That, as maybe we’ll talk about another time, is a dangerous game anyway.

If you have a question you’d like to see, comment below or on my facebook page. Thanks! I can’t wait to hear from you!

Whose Face Do You See?

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Photo by Robin Röcker on Unsplash

“What’s the matter, honey?”

I heard her voice before I saw her face. My own face was bent into my hands, covered in tears. A lot was the matter, and I didn’t know how to fix it. But when I looked up into that kind face above mine, I saw Jesus standing there.

The summer after college, I traveled across the country with a music tour. Halfway through, my family called me to come home—Dad might not make it this time, they said.

A week later, after we’d confirmed that Dad would make it, my sister bought me a Greyhound bus ticket to rejoin my tour group. Unfortunately, when I got to Omaha, I discovered they were still four hours away—a geographical miscalculation that left me sitting in the bus station at 10 p.m., imagining what could befall a young woman in a place like that in the seedier part of Omaha.

 

For the rest of the story this week, go here to The Glorious Table For an amazing true story about loving your neighbor.