Congregational Corner: Mercy Calls

By Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.‘14)
Congregational Corner

On an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in March, one of my youth asked if I would join the church’s softball team he and his brother were starting. My desire to be back outside mixed with my desire to help this young man and his brother have this experience with their dad, got to me and I reluctantly said yes.

Let’s get one thing clear real quick – I don’t play softball. In fact, I barely understand the sport. My husband had way too much fun taking me shopping for a glove and explaining the basics of the sport to me, probably very confident that I would barely make it through one game (he wasn’t too far off).

Well, the time came and we had a practice or two before our games started. Our team was comprised of a handful of seniors from our youth group, a few young adults (including myself), and a few 40+ parents and church members. Some have more experience on the field than they are (still) letting on, and then others were right with me – wondering why the glove went on the wrong hand and what we actually call the game officials. Early on, we knew we were there for the fellowship of the game.

What I found interesting as we played each game was the attitude on the field. In a church softball league, I expected the teams to all be fairly similar to us – a group made up of individuals from all areas of the church, just looking for a fun night together. I was sadly mistaken. Many of the teams appeared to be labeled with an A, B, and sometimes a C team from a handful of churches. The desire to win filled the calls from the dugouts. The stress of the disputable call caused the occasional bat to hit the fence.

As our team watched the divide in the score grow with every ball we didn’t catch (and every ball I hit!), I began to wonder, “If this is a church league, where is the mercy?” (Unfortunately, we learned of the mercy rule soon after this thought!)

I have pondered this all season as I watch the attitudes of different teams. There have been games when I stood by my assigned base and chatted with whoever was standing there, waiting to make a run. We talked about our churches, our jobs, and how the team came together. We wished each other luck as the pitcher wound up and ran on our way once the ball was hit. There were also, unfortunately, several games in which the other team didn’t want to do anything other than crank out those runs and get us out as quickly as possible. The laughter and calls from the dugout only made it harder as we tried our best. The win was more important than the fellowship and relationship.

I think about my struggle and desire for mercy and can’t help but think of so many who I see every day, asking the same question. The individuals who are just trying to pay for basic groceries, but the paycheck didn’t come on time. The family who is trying to give the kids everything they want, but the parent lost their job. The young student who is trying to get into college but can’t afford the application fee to even begin the process.

Where is the mercy? It is in our hands.

I wonder if we are so focused on winning the game that we forget the purpose of the game. Christ’s call to us to live with one another, sharing in God’s grace, is pushed to the side so that we can be “on top” in the relationship. I wonder if our desire to get to home base has led us to miss those we are running past. I wonder if our focus on our own team is causing us to miss the brilliant plays by the other team. I wonder if winning a simple game has become more important than ushering in God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Now, I get what the goal of softball is (kinda) but if we can’t find and share mercy in a church league, where WILL we find mercy? Where will SHARE mercy?

Our team experienced one or two mercy calls this season, but I think we are ALL missing the greatest call for mercy right now. If we step back and look at who is around us as we strive to reach “home,” if we extend mercy and love to those we encounter and pass along the way, won’t it make that “home run” that much better?

This Christian life isn’t about the way the glove fits, how heavy the bat is, or whether or not the ball was actually in the strike zone or not (See? I did learn something this season!) This life isn’t about being the fastest around the bases or the most gruff in the dugout. This life is about being with one another and sharing in God’s mercy for each and every one of us.

The best part of the games this year was when the teams circled up around the pitcher’s mound at the close of the game. One player would lead the group in prayer, and usually they would ask if there were any prayer concerns. My prayer today is that we might all seek ways to share God’s mercy on our way to “home” and in that way, we might usher in the Kingdom of God here on earth and all high-five and say “Good game, y’all!”

Alumna Jordan B. Davis is transitional associate pastor at Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church in Cary, North Carolina, and editor of Congregational Corner.