Welcome to our weekly discussion of the ways that world news, the Word of God, and our own lives intersect. The material in this post is drawn from The Wired Word (thewiredword.com). Please feel free to join in the discussion throughout the week by adding your own responses and experiences in the "comments" section (click on "comments" at the end of the post to add your comments), then continue the conversation with other members in person on Sunday at Coffee Hour! Blessings, Sylvia+
Cubs vs. Indians: Long World Series Drought Soon to End for One
In the News
This week saw the launch of the 2016 edition of Major League Baseball's championship contest, the World Series, a best-of-seven playoff between the American League champion Cleveland Indians and the National League champion Chicago Cubs.
While every World Series is an exciting event for baseball fans, this year's matchup is all the more remarkable because neither of the combatants have won the MLB's ultimate series for a very long time. The Indians have gone 68 years without a championship and the Cubs have been without one for 108 years.
Or, to say it differently, the Indians last won a World Series in 1948 during the Truman administration, while the Cubs last won in 1908 while Teddy Roosevelt was president.
In the intervening time, the Indians have at least gotten to compete in a World Series three times -- in 1954, 1995 and 1997 -- meaning they won the pennant in the American League those years. However, the Cubs have not won a pennant in their league since 1945, a 71-year drought.
That said, the Cubs are the favorite for this series because they won 103 games in the regular season, nine more than the Indians did in their season, and many observers think the Cubs have looked more imposing lately. All of this has renewed great hope in Chicago fans.
Nonetheless, underdogs have come out on top often enough in sporting events of all flavors to keep hope alive for Cleveland devotees as well.
One additional angle that some observers have mentioned is that the elevation of the Cubs to the World Series, whether they win or lose, marks the end of the so-called Billy Goat curse on the team.
According to the legend, in October 1945, when the Chicago Cubs last made it to the series, local tavern owner Bill "Billy Goat" Sianis went to Wrigley Field to cheer on the team in game four as they faced off against the Detroit Tigers. Sianis purchased a ticket for himself and one for his pet goat Murphy, thinking it would bring the Cubs luck.
When ushers stopped Sianis from entering with Murphy. Sianis appealed directly to the club owner P.K. Wrigley, asking him why he couldn't take his personal mascot to the game.
"Because the goat stinks," Wrigley reportedly replied.
So Sianis threw his arms up and cursed the team, declaring, "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more!"
When the Cubs lost the series to the Tigers, Sianis sent Wrigley a telegram asking, "Who stinks now?"
And thus began the Cubs' 71-year dry spell regarding the World Series.
At first, no one took the curse seriously, but as the years of struggling seasons piled up, some fans began to believe it.
But hope continued. For the last several decades, "Wait until next year" was a common slogan for Cubs fans at the end of every baseball season.
By the way, TWW editorial team member Timothy Merrill commented, "I think the Cubs in the Series is an act of God ... some pleasant, feel-good relief from the political mire we've been stuck with ... a respite, an oasis ... you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief across the land ....”
Applying the News Story
It's clear from the New Testament that many people in the early church expected the return of Christ to happen soon, perhaps within their lifetime. One of the adjustments that first-century believers had to make eventually was to see their faith as way of living for the long haul, accepting that the Lord's return might not happen quickly after all. And now, as a couple of millennia have passed, the Lord's return is not a hot topic in many places within the church.
Whenever we go on for a long time, constantly expecting something "any day now," we eventually get so used to the expecting that it becomes commonplace, and loses its meaning for us. After all, it's hard for us as a body of believers to stand on the tiptoes of expectancy for 2,000 years. Like Cubs fans we might say "Wait until next year," but without any real sense of likelihood. And so what can happen is that we settle into a kind of routine of our faith and don't look for a return of Christ in any kind of timeframe that matters to us.
Likewise, in the Lord's Prayer, we petition "Thy kingdom come," which many Christians hear as a petition for Christ's return in judgment at the Last Day. But for many of us, that sounds like something we can't comprehend that's in a future so far away as to have no immediate impact on us. (Other Christians hear the petition asking for God's kingdom to come to us personally when we receive Christ.)
Even in the shorter term, the mood in which we live our daily existence can be hopeful -- or something far short of that.
Given all of that, it's important for us to hear what the Bible says about hope.
The Big Questions
1. What are some things for which you are hoping fervently, but for which you've been waiting a long time? How does the delay affect your outlook on that particular matter? Why? How does the delay affect your outlook on life in general? Why?
2. What does the idea of Christ's return mean in terms of your faith? How does the kingdom of God figure into your outlook on life?
Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:
He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, "Do business with these until I come back." (For context, read 19:11-26.)
In this parable from Jesus, a nobleman who was going out of town gave 10 of his slaves a pound each and instructed them to "Do business with these until I come back." One invested his pound and earned 10 more. A second invested and earned five more. A third simply returned the pound, unused, and the nobleman was angry at him.
The anger was justified because the third slave had ignored his master's direct instruction to do business with the money.
Jesus told this parable, Luke says, "because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately" (v. 11). Thus, the point of the parable is about how to behave between his ascension and his return. And the way to behave, the parable suggests, is to be about the business of God, living faithfully day after day, loving God and neighbor.
In other words, living not focused on Jesus' return but on doing his will.
Questions: If we are to be focused on doing Christ's will, how does hope energize that? Which of the three slaves do you most identify with? Where have you avoided engaging in the business of God? How might you best "invest" your discipleship while waiting for our Christian hope to be fulfilled?
Responding to the News
This is an appropriate time to review what spiritual disciplines you practice to keep your hope in God vibrant. If you've become lax about any of them, consider whether the practices should be refreshed and given a higher priority in your schedule.
O God, we thank you for the promise of your kingdom to come. Help us to live as citizens of that kingdom in the present age, enabled to do so through the hope that you give us. In Jesus' name. Amen.