Let me begin with this disclaimer; I’m a huge Boston Red Sox fan and have been my entire life, even following their Triple A farm team, the Pawtucket Red Sox, since I was seven. (Sorry Rochester friends, when the PawSox come to town, they’re still my team). My being a fan may have something to do with my New England origins. Or it may be due in part to the fact that when my dad’s brother was dying from Leukemia in the 1950s, the great Ted Williams made regular trips to Mass General just to visit him. Then again there’s the iconic Citgo sign parked out beyond left centerfield which has been a Boston landmark longer than I’ve been alive.
But as I think about it, my love for the Sox is probably due more than anything else to the great Fenway Park with its 37’ 2” high left field wall, affectionately known as the “Green Monster”; the highest wall of any major league baseball stadium; towering over left fielders since 1912.
So imagine my surprise and subsequent outrage when in the 2002-03 off-season, the Green Monster was renovated with the installation of 274 seats, with even more added in 2005. I realize Fenway Park has one of the smallest seating capacities and with players’ salaries skyrocketing, it takes more fans to generate more revenue, but really guys, the Green Monster? You had to desecrate the holiest ground at Fenway Park by installing seats on her? Have you no decency? Is nothing sacred?
I wonder if these were the questions on the minds and hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees in Sunday morning’s gospel reading from Mark. Is nothing sacred? Jesus’ followers have not only been associating with all kinds of unclean people, but they don’t even wash their hands before eating as the religious tradition dictates. How can they call themselves followers of God and not abide by God’s traditions? From the Pharisees’ perspective, Jesus’ followers are not simply neglecting God’s statutes, they are spitting on the holiness of God. They are threatening the very fabric of Israelite existence with their cavalier ways. So yeah, the good religious folks are a bit upset. They’ve drawn their line in the sand.
Before we launch off on some tirade against the Pharisees and their apparent close-mindedness, maybe we should look at the lines we draw in the sand. Make no mistake about it, when it comes to life in the church, we all have them; we all have those lines you better not cross.
What if we cut the Congregation Council in half while at the same time eliminating Core Groups and their subcommittees in favor of a more agile congregation? What if we were to move the altar table around the sanctuary on a seasonal basis? What if we removed all the pews in order to make our worship space more flexible on Sunday, while creating a daily dining space for the homeless? Do you see where I’m going here? We all have buttons to be pushed. We all have traditions we are unable or unwilling to forsake.
It’s taken all these years for me to finally accept what the Red Sox owners did to my beloved “Green Monster”. I see now that their motives were not malevolent. As much as I may hate to admit it, they may have had the well-being of both the team and the park in mind. And if I’m honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that my precious Green Monster wasn’t always green.
Once again this week, I’m not entirely sure where my sermon will end up on Sunday. But my guess is that it’s going to have something to do with being open to the Spirit; being open to God working in new ways; trusting that God’s not going to lead us into bad places.
Join me on Sunday and let’s see where God takes us.
Peace and Love,