July 2019

The Scriptures remind us that whatever we do, we should do it “heartily, as for the Lord and not mortals.” (Colossians 3:23). The sense here implies not merely effort and devotion, but also joy and enthusiasm.

I was recently reminded of a story about one of my boyhood sports heroes. Willie Stargell was the elder statesman and father figure for the 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. (Come on, now. You had to know a baseball story was going to find it’s way into The Epistle eventually!) That team was famous for leaving everything on the field and having the time of their lives while playing. “Pops” Stargell was a big part of that.

Before most games, Willie would gather the team around him and say this: “Boys? When the man says it’s time for the ballgame to start, what does he say?” It wouldn’t be long before someone would respond with, “Play ball!” Old Willie would grin and say, “That’s right. That’s it. Play ball. Fellas, he says ‘Play ball. Not work ball. Play ball! Boys, let’s go out and have the time of our lives.”

Superstars and unknown utility players with the ‘79 Pirates played most every game like they were having the time of their lives. I wonder if we followers of Jesus might not learn from their example? Admittedly, Kingdom-building is an infinitely bigger deal than playing ball. But I have to believe our work together might be more enjoyable and even effective with a healthy sense of playful joy. I wonder what might happen if folks outside the church would see us and say, “Not totally sure what those folks are all about; but they seem to be having the time of their lives…”