socraticcoyote

A Field Of Dreams

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2005 at 8:53 pm

Good Morning. Over the course of my life there are three movies I have had a very emotional response to, and no, none of these three is a Star Wars movie! The first movie that really moved me was Born Free. This movie tells the story of a lioness, Elsa, who was born in captivity in Africa, and who must be returned to nature. Her return to the wild is incredibly difficult, but ultimately successful. I still cry every time I think of her heart-rending journey. The second movie that tugged at my heart was Forrest Gump. Forrest, a simple man with a giant heart, loves Jenny his whole life, after many years he finally gets to marry her, and then she dies. It gets me right here every time I see it, and that is all I have to say about that.

The third movie that really got to me was A Field Of Dreams. Ray Cansella, played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice telling him to plow up his Iowa corn field and build a baseball diamond. He builds it, and then baseball players from the past start showing up and playing on Ray’s baseball field. At the end of the movie Ray’s dad, who is long dead, appears, and Ray gets to play catch with him for the first time since he was a kid. Oh man! I remember seeing this movie with Andrea before we were married. Afterwards, I took Andrea home, went back to my apartment, and then bawled my eyes out for an hour. The strongest response I have ever had to a movie was to A Field Of Dreams.

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, and my soul always responds to this Feast Day in a very deep way. And, I often think of the movie Field Of Dreams when I think of All Saints. This morning I want to use Field Of Dreams as a guide to understanding both our scripture readings and the Feast of All Saints. Both the movie and the Feast remind us that when we keep dreaming, and obey the Voice, we will find heaven.

So here is how Field Of Dreams starts. Ray Cansella is out in his cornfield, and he hears a Voice saying, “If you build it, he will come.” He knows the Voice is telling him to build a baseball field right in the middle of his corn. And so, he obeys the Voice and builds a baseball field. Eventually one baseball player, long dead, Shoeless Joe Jackson, shows up to play baseball. And then, more and more players, the heroes of the game, all dead, start showing up to play. In one scene Ray tells his daughter about all the players in his corn field, what they were famous for, and what great ball players they were.

Ray Cansella was having an incredible All Saints experience. He was living in presence of the saints of baseball, he was reliving their experiences and praising their accomplishments, and, he got to actually play ball with his heroes. For a baseball fan, could this be heaven? Our Old Testament reading this morning encourages us to do exactly what Ray Cansella did. We are to sing the praises of our famous ancestors. We are encouraged to remember the prophets, rulers, musicians and other great people of our sacred past, who were godly and righteous followers of our Lord.

The author of Hebrews in the New Testament encourages us to do exactly the same thing. In Hebrews eleven, verse two, the author says “This is what the ancients were commended for,” and he then goes on to list, for an entire chapter, saint after saint who, by faith, followed God.

Why is it important to remember the saints, celebrate their lives, and praise their accomplishments? The main reason is this: within our remembrance, our celebration, and our praise, the saints are alive. When a baseball fan praises and celebrates dead players, it feels like those players are alive. But when we celebrate, remember, and praise the saints, we acknowledge that they actually are alive in Christ. The Feast of All Saints has nothing to do with the dead. The Feast of All Saints is a giant party when all living saints, whether in heaven or on earth, join together in worshiping God. Is this heaven?

So Ray Cansella plows up his corn, builds a baseball field, and baseball saints from the past start showing up. So far so good. But all is not good for Ray. He is running short of money, money from his corn crop that is now buried under a baseball field. How is Ray going to pay his bills? Just about then Ray hears the Voice again: Go the distance. Go the distance. What does that mean? The Voice is telling Ray that even though the journey is difficult, don’t give up. Go the distance.

On the Feast of All Saints, the saints are telling every one of us, go the distance. We finished the race, and so will you. After the long list of saints in Hebrews eleven, the author says: therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (the saints), let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. When the going gets tough, we can go the distance, because the saints are cheering us on every step of the way. Switching sports metaphors for just a second, the image in Hebrews is running a race like the Bolder Boulder. When you run this 10-K you get very tired near the end, but as you hit the home stretch there are people lining both sides of the road, cheering you on, and many of those people are runners who have already finished the race, and who have come back to encourage those still running. That encouragement is like extra energy that carries you through the last mile. You know that if they went the distance, you can too.

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and our companion on the journey, encourages all of us to persevere to the end. Blessed are you when you are poor in spirit. Go the distance, for your reward will be the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when you are sad and mourn. Go the distance, for you will be comforted. Blessed are you when you are meek. Go the distance, and you will inherit the earth. When the injustices of this world crush your soul, blessed are you when you hunger and thirst for righteousness. Go the distance, for you will be filled. Blessed are you when you show mercy to others. Go the distance, and mercy will be shown to you. Blessed are you when you heart is pure. Go the distance, for you will see God.

In this world of violence and destruction, blessed are you when you make peace. Go the distance, for you will be called children of God. Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake. Go the distance, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, go the distance, because great is your reward in heaven.

The Feast of All Saints says with the saints cheering us on, and with Jesus at our side, we are going to make it. We will go the distance. Could this be heaven?

Now we come to the real turning point in the movie Field of Dreams. Ray is hearing voices again. This time the Voice says, “Ease His Pain.” What on earth could that mean? In the movie this means several things. First, Ray is supposed to go to Boston, find Terence Mann, and ease his pain. Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones, is a sixties icon who is burned out. He used to dream dreams. He used to hear the Voice. But now he just wants to be left alone. Ray is to ease his pain by showing him his baseball field.

Second, at the end of the movie, Ray’s dad appears on the baseball field, and Ray realizes that he is supposed to ease his father’s pain. Like Terence Mann, Ray’s father had become burned out. Years of hard work and taking care of a family had worn him down. He wasn’t dreaming or hearing voices anymore either.

And Ray, with his baseball diamond in a field of corn, was on the verge of losing his dream too. Ray was about to lose his faith. He had obeyed the Voice, and seen long dead heroes of baseball show up on his field. But there was one big problem. The bank was about to foreclose on his farm. He was following his dream, and obeying the Voice, but he didn’t have the resources to make it work anymore. He was bankrupt. He could either stand by his dream and go under, or sell the farm and lose the dream. What would he do?

I think we at Christ The King know what Ray Cansella was going through. There has been a lot of change around here recently, and many of us are wondering, to greater and lesser degrees, where will we find the resources, both individually and corporately, to do what we have to do? How will we ease our pain?

Lets be honest. Sometimes, belonging to a church community is the pits. There is no other way to say it. Losing both our rector and assistant priest within one week is the pits. Even if it is God’s will, its still the pits. And it leaves us asking, who are we now? And, where will we find the resources to to what we have to do?

I have talked to many of you, and I know some of us are feeling sad, and angry, a bit panicky, and even orphaned. I understand these feelings because I have felt exactly the same things. And we are all wondering, how long will the search process take? How long will Christ the King be in this uncertain place? Where do we find the resources to deal with our uncomfortable feelings? Where do we find the financial resources to get us through this transition?

These are important, and sacred, questions. Though I can’t provide many answers, I can, I think, provide us with a direction. When we feel anxious about where we are going to find the resources to deal with all the feelings and issues we have to deal with, I say we must turn to the one and only place that has all the resources we need. And that place is, baseball.

When Ray Cansella had to decide whether to sell his farm or stick with his dream, Terrence Mann told him this:

“People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. Its been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past Ray. It reminds us of all that was once good, and could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Isn’t that wonderful? Though America is like a blackboard that has been erased, rebuilt, and then erased again, baseball is a like a constant, never changing river that flows down through the generations. And when people connect to that transcendent, never changing river of baseball in Ray’s cornfield, they will find all the resources they need, and give the resources they have. Ray is not bankrupt. His field will pay for itself.

It is exactly the same for us. For us, the never changing river that flows down through the generations is the liturgy and the Eucharist. It is the one constant that marks the time. And though life sometimes steamrolls right over us, and though sometimes at church it feels like we build something, it is erased, and then we have to build it all over again, the liturgy and the Eucharist always continue. We are not empty. In the liturgy and the Eucharist we find all the resources we need. And having deeply connected with the liturgy and the Eucharist, we will give the resources we have. Priests will come and go. We have come. And someday, we will go. But the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ continues forever.

At the end of Field of Dreams, Ray’s father asks, looking out over the baseball field, “is this heaven?” Ray says no, it’s Iowa. Then he looks around and says, maybe this is heaven. And then he asks his dad, “is there a heaven?” And his dad says, “oh yeah. Heaven is the place where dreams come true.” We all long for heaven. Our deepest yearning is for permanence, for joy, and for home. Many times this world seems far away from heaven, so we all hope that, someday, in the future, we will find our home with God.

But if you were to ask me, is there a heaven?, I would say, Oh yeah, it’s right here. The Eucharist is our field of dreams. The Eucharist is our heaven. If heaven is being in the presence of God, and worshiping Him with all the saints, then we are, right now, in heaven.

Every Eucharist, all the heroes of the faith join us in worshiping God. That is heaven! Listen to these words from Eucharist prayer C: “Therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope, to proclaim with them your glory….Heaven doesn’t begin when we die. Heaven is right here. Right now. The Feast of All Saints is a yearly reminder that every Eucharist is All Saints. Every Eucharist is heaven. Every Eucharist we come home. When we anchor ourselves in the Eucharist, we anchor ourselves in All Saints.

So, in the spirit of All Saints, how do we navigate our pastoral transition? I suggest that we devote ourselves more than ever before to meditating on the mystery of the liturgy and the Eucharist, to prayerfully partaking of the Eucharist, and to seeing the whole world Eucharistically. In this time when church life is somewhat up in the air, we must be grounded by immersing ourselves in the timeless and changeless liturgical river that flows through the generations. In other words, we must fully explore the mystery of All Saints.

If you build it, he will come. As Christ is truly present in the bread and wine, so too he is truly present in His body, the church. Christ is eucharistically present in His people just as He is eucharistically present in the bread and wine. Therefore, we must continue to build and nourish the church, for in so doing we participate in the mystery of the Eucharist. We must continue our ministries, we must fulfill our mission statement, we must keep up our tithing, and we must reach out to the suffering and the lost. These are not just activities we do. These are participations in the mystery of the Eucharist.

Go the distance. In normal times life can sometimes be rocky. In a period of transition, rocky times are magnified. Issues that were small three months ago may feel much bigger now. That is why we must all hang in there and go the distance. Together. Perseverance through time is the preeminent characteristic of all the heroes of the faith. As we eucharistically worship with all the saints, we can learn from, and even lean on, their lives of perseverance.

Ease his pain. Some parts of our transition will be very exciting. Nevertheless, this is a painful time for all of us. And it is okay to talk about our pain. This is a wonderful time to listen to our brothers and sisters, and bear each others burdens. One of the great mysteries of the Eucharist is that Christ, in His sufferings, has healed the entire world. As we allow His healing to flow through us to others, we not only participate in the Eucharist, but we also represent Christ eucharistically to others.

Last week I read a small story about Lani McCool, the wife of Willie McCool, who was the pilot of the Space Shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated over Texas a few years ago. The story was about how Lani had tried to put her life back together after losing her husband in the shuttle tragedy. One line in the story really struck me. It said that Lani tried to go to church, but every time she got close, she started crying, “because the Eucharist is as close as we get to someone who’s dead”, and that reminded her of the times she and Willie attended church together.

What a wonderful statement about what All Saints is all about. May we all know what All Saints is all about that deeply and that instinctively, and may that participation in the Eucharist and the communion of saints bind us all together as we move through Christ The King’s pastoral transition.

Amen

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  1. Great sermon. Impressive canine padawan. It’s time. Join me and I will complete your training.

  2. Is Father Neo my father? Ben, why didn’t you tell me?!

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