OCT 26, 2016 Devotional: Baseball, Iowa Cornfields, and Redemption

Last night, I was sitting behind a glowing computer screen, trying to find some inspiration to write today’s devotional.  The first game of the World Series was playing on the TV in the background, and that really didn’t help me much with my concentration.

Most weeks, I try to find some linkage between the workout and the devotional.  So this week, my mind drifted back and forth between “pumpkins” and “baseball”.

“What’s the connection”, I kept asking myself.

Well…there really isn’t a connection, but I do love the game of baseball.  SO….here goes…..!

One of my favorite movies from the late 1980’s was the Kevin Costner film, “Field of Dreams”.  We all know the plot….an Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, puts his family’s livelihood at risk all because he heard a mysterious voice that said “Ray….if you build it, he will come….“.  Ray mows down his cornfield, much to the ridicule of others in the town, and pursues the dream of building a baseball field in the middle of the cornfield….in the middle of Iowa!

After much doubt, the story wraps up in a nice, beautiful bow.  Ray builds the field and the “he” does come back.

Side note…..the “build it” quote from the movie is commonly mistaken as “if you build it, THEY will come….“.  But, if you dig into the movie’s plot, you’ll immediately remember that the voice talking to Ray is specifically saying…”He will come“.

So who is the “He” in the movie?  The story’s plot has a formerly banned professional baseball player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, as the “He”.  Ray is a big fan of Shoeless Joe and connects the dots to surmise that he’s supposed to build this baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield so Joe can come back and play another game of baseball. You see, the story is about “redemption”.

And redemption comes in two situations in that Iowa cornfield.

First, indeed redemption comes to Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Joe was a star outfielder with the Chicago White Sox, playing in the World Series of 1919 against the Cincinnati Reds.  The White Sox lost the series and later eight players were accused of intentionally throwing the game.  Of those eight players, one was Shoeless Joe.  Players were accused of accepting bribes from gamblers.  Upon the convening of a grand jury, Shoeless Joe confesses that he has accepted money as part of an effort to throw the series.  He later recanted his confession, but it was too late.  Joe was banned for life from the game of baseball.  Upon his death at age 64, the other seven players said Joe was never involved in the scandal and later still evidence has surfaced that further casts doubt on his involvement.  Joe was the first of the eight players to pass away.

When Ray builds his baseball field and Joe comes “back” to play, he is offering redemption to Shoeless Joe for the scandal that had plagued him into his death.

Next, Ray likewise receives redemption but in a completely different form.  You see, Ray has had a horrible relationship with his own father, who had since passed away.  The building of the baseball field creates a simple way, through playing catch with his dad, that Ray is able to put their relationship at peace after a lifetime of conflict.  Ray’s dad appears along with the other dead baseball players who’ve come to play ball.  At one point, Ray’s dad says to him, “Is this Heaven…”, to which Ray responds…”No, this is Iowa…”.  And as his dad starts to walk away back into the cornfield, Ray says to him, “Dad, would you like to play catch” and his Dad responds, “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

Sports has a way of cleansing our souls, both physically and metaphorically speaking.  Perhaps, however, baseball is the most appropriate game to demonstrate the power of redemption.  I can think of no other games where individuals can play and talk all at the same time.  Simply put, the act of “playing catch” serves as the example of the cleansing of our guilt for whatever the reason.  Biblically speaking, Romans 3:23 reminds us that “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“.  Redemption frees us from our guilt, something we all need regardless of the diversity of our situations.

With the 2016 World Series games officially upon us, I encourage you to see the games as a reminder to seek your own redemption for what might be laying heavily on your mind.  Cheer for the Cubbies, too, but remember the importance of redemption.