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Living and growing: Ping-Pong and other shenanigans

Posted: May 19, 2013 - 12:01am
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Table tennis paddles and ball atop table tennis table, elevated view  Thomas Northcut
Thomas Northcut
Table tennis paddles and ball atop table tennis table, elevated view

There’s been an awful lot of back and forth in the local paper recently regarding liberal versus conservative Christianity. Actually there’s an awful lot of this back and forth all over the nation and it’s not just in the religious context that this liberal vs. conservative notion exists; we see it in the public arena all the time. But since I’m a pastor, I choose to reflect today on this Christian game that is played between denominations.

I liken it to a tennis match, or more likely a Ping-Pong match (I really never played or was a spectator to either so my metaphor may be obsolete). Imagine two players, swatting a ball back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It feels endless. I imagine it seems pointless to most spectators not invested in either player.

Allow me to expand on the metaphor with an additional player. Supposedly Christianity has something to say about God, so where’s God in this endless match? Some might say He’s giving the player in the red shirt just the right finesse to make that killer shot, God’s certainly on their side. Others are adamant that God is inspiring the player in the blue shirt and clearly the player’s passion is from Divine inspiration. In each case, we must choose which side God is on (and yes, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t claim that I’m rooting for my player to overcome, but I suppose that’s because, as a pastor, I have some investment in the game).

But what if God did not choose sides, but instead was the ball? No, that couldn’t be. It would be difficult to imagine God, the Creator of all, being swatted around by silly humans at the whim of each strike. Maybe God is the table. You can’t have a Ping-Pong match without the table. But actually, it is more likely the table is just the playing field that the game is being played on. Well then, God must be the rules of the game. The rules will certainly dictate what makes a ball out or in. But then again, we see both players arguing with the umpire over what was a foul and what was a legitimate shot.

My hunch is that God doesn’t want anything to do with this silly and pointless game. My hunch is that God is not giving a player the edge or being swatted around as the ball; nor is God the context known as the table or even the rules of the game itself. Instead, I think God is hanging out in the stands. God is in the stands offering Her seat to an elderly man. God is in the stands cleaning up the messy spilled soda that the child behind Him made. God is pointing to the kissing cam where surprised couples are prompted by the crowd to share their affections for all to witness. My hunch is that God is in the stands with the spectators laughing at the ludicrousness of the game itself.

• Rev. Susan Boegli is the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Chuch

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