Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sliding Into Home Plate

I love metaphors.  They make our language unique and colorful.  They help us to imagine what it may be like to be someplace else or do other things we wish we could do.  They help us to describe things to others that we may not be able to describe otherwise. 

We had a funeral today at our church where we said goodbye to an 88 year old man.  He had lived in Houston where he worked for many years but when he retired he and his wife moved to the country, as many people often do.  They bought a piece of property in our area and built a nice house on it.  This man had a love for softball.  No, not baseball, but softball and girl's softball teams.  He acted as trainer and coach for 100 or more girls over the years teaching them the intricacies of throwing a softball and hitting one.  He had been in the Navy in World War II and had worked as an electrician during his working years but it was his mentoring of girls on softball teams that drew the most attention from those attending the funeral today.  A group of girls from the local high school came dressed in their uniforms and sat together with their coach.  The school superintendent came as well.  A banker, the city manager, the county commissioner, and other officials attended the service. 

One woman read a tribute to this man that told a lot of facts about his life.  As the tribute came to a close, she inserted a metaphor that described him being in heaven and on a softball team with two other relatives who had preceded him in death.  She imagined him hitting a ball into the outfield and running the bases and then sliding into home plate with the base judge calling him "Safe!" as he slid in and touched the plate.  "Safe at home at last", she ended.  I have heard many metaphors used at funerals to imagine what the deceased must be doing in heaven including fishing and playing pool, but I think I like this one the best, and especially the statement that ended it---"Safe at home, at last."

That is probably what we all would like to hear when it is our time to cross the plate.  I compared this man to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John who came to see Jesus by night and learned from him and then just disappears after that chapter, only to reappear one time later and then in the final chapters as he assists Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus' dead body.  Nicodemus was a quiet man, a secret disciple who never proclaimed his faith openly for everyone to hear but simply did the good work that he could as it needed to be done without calling attention to himself.  That sounds like faith in action, a faith that James recommends and Matthew has Jesus talk about in the Parable in chapter 25.  Doing good work is an outgrowth of faith, something one does because they have faith, and the faith they have may be known only to themselves. 

This man whom we buried today was a lot like my own father, I imagine.  Neither really cared much for organized religion or went to church often but both made sure they helped those who needed help and both tried to live out an understanding of faith in action, loving God by loving their neighbor as best they understood how that could be done.  Both liked the game of baseball and how it was played but did not play it themselves.  By the grace of God, both of them have crossed home plate and have been declared "Safe" by the only authority that really matters.  God grant them rest for their souls and peace in God's Kingdom. 

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