Today, 300 days after the final game of the 2019 season and 120 days later than originally scheduled, is Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox. Much of what we experienced as sports fans in September will be different tonight: there will be a new field manager (Alex Cora was ‘let go’ after his ties to Houston’s cheating scandal), a new general manager (Dave Dombrowski was ‘let go’ after a lackluster season), new pitchers (3 of the 5 top starters from 2019 are either injured or gone) and a new center fielder (MVP winner Mookie Betts is now a Dodger). Off-field, things will be different as well: no fans in the stands, commentators broadcasting from off-sight studios, piped-in crowd noise, and a ban on player celebrations and arguing with umpires. Still, our national pastime is resuming and I, for one, am delighted that some things are getting back to (a new) normal.
I was asked, the other day, if I would watch the Red Sox this year, knowing that there are no reasonable expectations of a post-season and little hope of a winning season, even in its abbreviated form. I responded that I would watch and hope for the best. After all, anything can happen. The team could over-perform or one of the prospects could catch fire. Perhaps by Labor Day my optimism will wane, but for now I am anticipating big things.
In a way, what is happening at Fenway is playing out every Sunday morning at many churches around the world. Some of the players have changed (having moved to other teams), the product on the field is a little different (with less personal interaction) and most, if not all, of the seats are empty. The pandemic has changed the way we ‘do church’ and experience church: most of us are participating through the filter of digital distance, surrounded by the comforts of home with the ability to pause, mute and multitask. Like watching professional baseball, where we might be tempted to consume a product and drop out if we are dissatisfied with the outcome, sometimes our digital participation with worship is more about our available options than our openness to the Spirit.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
Whether it is viewing the new baseball season or streaming a worship service or having a romantic date night, no one knows when this current reality will return to the ways of the past. What we can do, in this present circumstance, is elevate our digital activities to reflect some pre-March practices. Dress up for the experience before you turn on the device, turn off your phone and commit fully to what you are experiencing. If you were going to Fenway, the movies or the church, what would you do to prepare? Do that. What would you bring? Bring them. When would you leave the event? Don’t leave until then. Treat the new patterns as you would normally, for they are the new normal.
I would love to go to Fenway this summer. I would love to go to the movies with my wife. I would love to see the church full on a Sunday morning. God, today, seems to have other plans. However, whatever we do, we can do what we can to glorify God by the way we do it.