Several weeks ago, millions of Americans celebrated one of our most beloved cultural holidays: Opening Day. To baseball fans, Opening Day is the unofficial beginning of summer. It kicks off a six-month-long season in which there are a dozen or more Major League games to watch or listen to every day.
For casual fans of America’s pastime, like myself, Opening Day isn’t all that special. To me, the outcome of any team’s first game isn’t that significant because there are another 161 games to be played. But to fans who are devoted and loyal to a particular team, Opening Day means everything. On Opening Day anything is possible. Last season’s wins and losses become irrelevant and everyone is undefeated and has a shot at winning the pennant. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Hey, stranger things happen in sports all the time.)
Opening Day is all about hope. Paul tells us, “If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25, CEB). Hope is not about instant gratification; it’s about patiently anticipating the future glory that awaits us.
When Jerusalem was under siege, the people of Judah had very little reason to be hopeful. The conquering Babylonians would capture Jerusalem, destroy the temple, and take many of the people into exile. But God, through the prophet Jeremiah, pointed the people toward a future when all would be restored. God told Jeremiah to purchase a field at Anathoth, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. As real estate transactions go, buying the field was foolish. The value of the property was certain to plummet as the Babylonians laid waste to the city and scattered its population. But buying the field was an expression of hope. It was a promise that there would come a day when Judah would be restored and land would once again be bought and sold. (See Jeremiah 32.)
With that in mind, I would urge the Tampa Bay Rays’ small but devoted fan base to take heart. Even though Evan Longoria is on the disabled list and Carl Crawford is in a Red Sox uniform this year, the story of the 2011 season has not been written yet. There is still hope. And to the Chicago Cubs’ large, passionate, and starved fan base—a group that hasn’t seen a championship in 102 years—I say that World Series tickets will again be bought and sold on the north side of Chicago, even if it doesn’t happen this year (or the next).
Baseball fans should wait with patience and hope for the season when their team is still playing late into October. And Christians should wait with patience and hope for the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ. We will continue to face adversity (and losing seasons) but we know that “hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 5:5, NRSV).
Josh Tinley is a curriculum editor for Abingdon Press and the author of Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports. Follow him on Twitter.