Preachers love stories – hearing them; telling them; sharing them; and even – if necessary and it is good for the kingdom’s sake – making them up! From this preacher, you will not likely hear me tell a golf story. I have never played the game and outside of knowing that the little white ball is supposed to go in the little hole conveniently marked by a flag, I know very little about it. I know that even if I were to try to tell a golf story I would invariably get the facts wrong, or mess up the punch line, or say something that would leave the better-informed among you thinking less of me.
Amy was mildly embarrassed of me and a bit indignant during my first golf outing here in Augusta. Someone was very generous and thoughtful by providing an opportunity for us to attend The Masters – perhaps you have heard of it? Anyway, at hole 13 (at least I think that was the hole; I remember there were lots of beautiful azaleas and some water, yet for some reason no one was fishing) a golfer was preparing to “tee off” and I politely asked the question, in an appropriate hushed tone because everyone else was whispering, “is that where they whack the ball?” Amy told me to be quiet and eat my pimento cheese sandwich. Now when I attend I just keep my thoughts to myself and make small talk about all the lovely shrubs, flowers and trees.
Even though I know very little about golf and have no intention to take up the game, I look forward to this annual event when the entire world seems to be focused on Augusta. This will be my ninth year for Masters Week and I actually can say I appreciate the game and hope to make it out on the course for at least one of those days. For some The Masters is the celebration of a pastime, a hobby, a sport, a game, or the pinnacle of the year.
You do not have to like golf to get swept up in the excitement. The city readies itself for the legends of the game and for the thousands upon thousands of visitors that will descend up us. Even though it comes at a great inconvenience and we avoid Washington Road at all costs unless we are actually going to one of the rounds, it is a thrill to get caught up with the crowd; to feel the euphoria building and breathe in the spring air of Masters Week. It is as if we could almost believe God sends this sunshine for our special week.
This week we will read in the Gospels of getting “swept up” in the euphoria of Palm Sunday, anticipating Easter. Of course it is those days between parades, between the crowds that are really telling. That is when the living is no longer easy, and the euphoria has dissipated giving way to denials and betrayals and shame and rejection. We want to stay in the parade or rush to the New Day of Easter, but the real living comes when the parade stops, the “world” returns home and we are left with our fickle convictions and disappointments.
You see, we need one another, we really do. We are not just “event people,” stringing together emotional and spiritual highs and hoping to fashion for ourselves a whole life. We need each other in the seasons and out. The church is the “tent of meeting”, that is, the place of coming together, but it is all too easy to be just another face in the crowd attending yet another event. Church is not so much a place where we gather or an event in which we attend. Church is about people, connected with one another following the Christ.
As we get ready for Easter I encourage you to seek ways of better belonging and engagement through the community of faith. What is important, even essential, is to get connected, to belong, because in time the parade will stop, the cameras will turn away and focus on someplace else and the crowds will have dispersed. The questions we then will face are: who am I? Whose am I? where do I stand; where will I go?
Peace be with you,