Another Word…by Gus Keiser

April 23, 2018

Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, to all exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.

                                                                                                                        Jeremiah 29: 4-5

 Here it is, Pirate baseball season again, and after a rather lack-luster Grapefruit League season in Florida, they’ve started out better than most people would have predicted, creating hope for some more glory days after the three-year playoff run they had several years ago; that following twenty plus years of losing seasons. Hopefully this recent good start will bring fans back into the seats at PNC Park.

Every team in professional sports has this cadre of devoted followers, those classified as hopeful fans. Without them, the team probably wouldn’t survive.  These aren’t your rabid fans who are constantly vacillating between intense hatred and delight during each game, or fickle fans who cheer enthusiastically during the team’s winning streaks but who also bail when the team begins to lose game after game.  These are loyal fans, fans who remain true no matter what.  They’re happy to see their team win, naturally, but still proudly wear their team’s colors even when they lose.  For them, there is always next year.

Sure, the Pirates had this record number of losing seasons several years ago, but it paled in comparison to the record of losing seasons posted by the Israelites. Nations and dynasties flourished and vanished while God’s people experienced more losers than winners.  The fact that the nation even continued to exist was a miracle in itself.  You would have thought that God would have gotten tired of losing and might have decided to sell off the team.  But God’s not that kind of God.  He’s not a quitter when things go sour.  He never gave up on his beloved children.  These were his chosen people.  He knew that with his help and guidance, they’d eventually win.  With him on their side, there would always be a next year.

He reassured this people of that fact through the prophet Zephaniah. When the storm clouds of devastation and defeat darkened their nation’s horizon, Zephaniah stood tall for God.  He added words of hope to their vocabulary.  This occurred during the reign of King Josiah, where the people experienced a season of righteousness, thus delaying God’s judgment.  They became the “Pirates” of their time, showing a rebuilding process.  They shed their old habits and eliminated their evil practices.

Unfortunately, the reforms Josiah set in place didn’t last long, and once again losing ways began to run deep throughout the nation. Yet there remained this small group who refused to give up faith.  God’s hopeful team stood fast.  They realized that “next year” might not happen anytime soon, but it would eventually come…because that’s what God had promised them.

And that same God who kept his promise to Israel keeps his promise to you and me. This is something we can always count on.  So let’s keep living as hopeful fans (both of God and the Pirates).  God’s promise describes both his relationship with Israel and the one he longs to have with us.  Zephaniah assures us…”The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”  So hang in there, better seasons are ahead!

Lord of love and faithfulness…even when the losing seasons begin to pile up, we can always find comfort and hope in your presence and your promise. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

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