They've been working hard for a good portion of their young lives perfecting their skills with bats, balls and gloves, hoping someday to visit the Field of Dreams for the Little League Baseball World Series! At significant expense, they've come from around the world with coaches, families, friends and fans making meaningful sacrifices to support and encourage them.
Along the way, they've forged lifelong friendships, melded as teammates working toward a common goal and, now in South Williamsport, have been exposed to peers, peoples and cultures that open their eyes to the world.
Notwithstanding their diverse talents and individual skills - like the young girl on the Philadelphia team throwing 70 mph fastballs - they come to Williamsport to compete as teams.
We commend and congratulate them not only for "making it" but also for inspiring a worldwide audience by their good sportsmanship, dedication and team spirit. Little Leaguers remind us that teamwork is essential in many areas of life besides sports. Working toward common goals invariably draws people closer and closer together. And the more ambitious and lofty the goal, the greater the effort required to achieve it. Team members must contribute their best efforts to the collective process. If and when the goal is achieved, how sweet are the results.
Champions are not crowned because of whim but because of hard work in the trenches of daily life that prepare them for the field of competition - for "the prize."
There's much in this that relates to faith groups like the Christian community. Though some suggest, "It's just between me and God," the sacred scriptures invariably reveal a "team approach." The analogy of the apostle Paul calling the Church "the Body of Christ" is most instructive. He writes, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you' and "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (I Corinthians 12:21,26). Clearly he's talking about a "team approach."
Consider the "team" Jesus Himself assembled to carry out His divine mission and ministry! Look at the "apostolic dugout." Over here we have a pair of professional adversaries: Matthew, the tax-collector, sitting with Simon the Zealot - one collects the taxes to support a regime the other is fighting to eradicate. Further down the bench we see esteemed "sons of thunder," James and John, who dare to demand places further up in the batting order. Leading off is Peter the triple-denier, followed by his brother and business partner, Andrew. In the on-deck circle is the impatient Philip, chomping at the bit, while behind him is friend Nathanael, enjoying the shade of a fig tree as he contemplates the mysteries of the universe. A money-loving Judas actually tries to sabotage the effort (definitely NOT a team player). And when the game nearly is over, Thomas, the chronically-late doubter, arrives. Could there be a bunch of less likely candidates to gather together to form a team that ultimately would "turn the world upside down?" (Acts 17:6).
Individuals, with their respective talents, gifts and skills, certainly can accomplish and achieve much. But, for "a greater good," gather them together, bring their individual talents to bear under inspired leadership toward a common goal, support and encourage them in their dedicated efforts, and watch what happens.
- Kovalak is the pastor at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Loyalsock Township.