Monthly Archives: April 2014

Wrigley at 100: The Full Cubs Experience

Yesterday was Wrigley Field’s 100th Birthday celebration. And it was quite a party. There was a lot to celebrate when surveying 100 years of history. Wrigley was built on the former home of a Seminary. It was originally the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League (a competitor to Major League Baseball back in the day.) To distinguish them from the Major League team nearby (The Cubs) they were usually called the Federals or Feds, which eventually became their nickname. Weeghman Park (team owner) was its original name. It cost $250,000 and was completed in 2 months, opening in April of 1914. Weeghman was shrewd. The beautiful setting and success of his team forced MLB to respond by letting him buy the Cubs in 1916 (struggling at the time.) Wrigley played a major role in shaping how MLB came of age, was in the center of several national political scandals that touched even the White House (Tea Pot Dome), and along the way became one of the best places on earth to spend time with friends. History haunts this sacred ground everywhere you look. The greatest living Cubs and Bears legends (yes they played here for 50 years, winning 8 NFL Championships!) were invited to honor this great park. The ceremony concluded with Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks shuffling across the diamond like he had for 19 seasons. Ernie was rightly honored most. One of baseball’s greats who always wanted to “play two” and even requested to be able to live on the grounds while he was playing. But he never got a World Series ring and that’s the other chapter of living the Wrigley experience.

It’s one of my favorite places to be since the late 1970’s when my dad would drive me from Iowa to take in a game. (Sunny every single time he brought me.) Every season brings fresh hope that this will be the year a World Series Championship is won in these hallowed friendly confines. This special day brought gifts and cake (A throwback Federals jersey for the first 30,000 fans and a birthday cupcake for the first 10,000-yes I made sure to get both!). It seemed magical as the Cubs were winning. Samardzija was pitching like an ace. The Cubs were up 5-2 with 2 outs in the 9th and 2 strikes on the batter, when relief pitching collapsed. How many times have I seen that movie? Alas, we were all treated to the full Cubs experience. Boundless hopes, historic atmosphere, great excitement, and soul-crushing disappointment. All in the same day! But it was great to share it with my college friend Lon. Just like always, one of the best places on earth to spend the day with a friend. It’s about so much more than winning and losing. A place with a spiritual heritage of hopes handed down. I park on nearby Seminary Street whenever I can. Here’s to 100 years of Wrigley. May we run out of candles before this place breathes its last…

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Salt and Light vs Cultural Christianity

Below are a couple of intriguing links to religion trends in Great Britain and China.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10770425/David-Cameron-says-Christians-should-be-more-evangelical.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10776023/China-on-course-to-become-worlds-most-Christian-nation-within-15-years.html

Both stories seem hopeful on the surface. A Prime Minister saying Christians should be more evangelical about their faith. He even says he has felt the “healing power of the church.” Then a trend in China where the Statist nation will soon house the most Christians of any country on earth. Wow, so it’s beautiful irony, right?
But if you read on in both stories you begin to see how hard it is for the church to define success. Turns out David Cameron has been all over the map on his previous public statements about the church. He’s struggling right now and facing a surging, more conservative opposition. So it’s hard not to wonder how politically motivated the comments are. Then if you read more, it really unravels. Good schools, social programs, and just enough faith to keep people from being hopeless seems to be the role of the church. Speaking truth to power? (As long as it’s the other guys…) Bearing witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? (Sort of, but mainly just helping make sure other religions aren’t trampled…) What you end up with is pretty close to what the optimist club could provide.
But surely the China story is good news! Well, there are now mega churches in provinces of China. High walls. Cross on top. One more feature…a closed circuit camera suspended directly in front of the pulpit. This is not for live broadcast. These cameras are controlled by the State. They are to directly monitor sermons for “dangerous” content. “They want the pastor to preach in a Communist way. They want to train people to practice in a communist way…the Old Testament book…Daniel…is seen as “very dangerous”…”
This seems pretty compromised.
To be fair, these must be gut-wrenching decisions for churches and pastors and believers to make. Do we work within the framework allowed by the culture in order to protect our level of “influence”/political freedom? Or, do we preach and live the full truth of the gospel, which challenges any and every political system?
The underground church in China has made their choice. Many Christians have left the Church of England to work more boldly for the Kingdom of God. They don’t want to be the religious arm of the State. But it’s not so easy to say that’s the only right choice.
Oh, for the happy day when those Christians who are fully and sacrificially devoted could win enough hearts and minds to eventually go public, joining those who have kept something going in the public realm. But tough questions remain…
It makes me wonder what John Wesley (kicked out of the Church of England for preaching the truth and challenging social norms) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (founding member of the confessing church of resistance to Nazi Germany, who was killed in prison) would want to tell us…

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