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Softball and the Holy Spirit

Link to this week's lectionary reading here.

So, this week I had my first softball practice of the season. Oh, did you not know that your priest plays softball? Well, I do! It's a non-competitive league based on Ithaca, for women and nonbinary folks. See, I need a non-competitive league because the truth is that I am not very good at softball. I love it, and I love playing in this league because they are so encouraging. No matter how bad I am, the coaches are always there to help me get better AND to celebrate with hoots and hollers whenever any of us get a hit or catch the ball.

That said, I spend a lot of time standing in the softball field feeling both hopeful that the ball will come my way and also very anxious that the ball might come my way. As soon as I hear the coach yell, "This one's coming to you, April!" I feel my chest get a little tighter, and butterflies in my stomach. I love it, but I dread it.

For what it's worth, when I was telling my spouse about how I felt about catching the ball, they said, "You know, you might enjoy softball more from the bleachers, if that's how you feel."

But no. I do love it, being out there, even though it's stressful and even though when I'm out there I sometimes wish I wasn't. Even though I'm often sore when I come home from practice or a game. I love how the team comes alongside one another to celebrate each other's successes.

In our scripture reading from the Gospel of John today, we hear about the presence of an Advocate - in Greek the word is "paraclete" which means, the one who comes alongside. This is the Holy Spirit, and I think this is a wonderful reading for Mother's Day because if you read the passage with feminine pronouns for the Spirit, she sounds a lot... like a mother! Jesus even says, I will not leave you orphaned. A mother to come alongside the friends of Jesus and be with them as they attempt to live out their love for Jesus... by keeping his commandments, which is how he instructs them to show their love for him.

It's worth remembering here - what were those commandments? To love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This, too, seems appropriate for Mother's Day, because being a caregiver is often less about what we feel for someone and more about how we live it... exactly what Jesus' commandments are. Caregiving is, most of the time, completely unglamorous... sometime joyful, sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes warm and fuzzy, other times, born out of sheer willpower. We tend to think about love in our culture as a feeling, but Jesus really challenges that here. And for those of you who have cared for children, or for your own parents, or for a spouse, you know - it is often a true labor of love.

It is a true labor of love and it is also something we all fail at. Let's be honest: It can also be exhausting to continue to care when the world can seem so overwhelmingly broken. When we think about how others have failed in caring for us, or how our elected officials are failing, or how we have failed in caregiving for others. And it's not even always easy to know what caregiving is in different situations - what does it mean to act in love? It's not always easy to know! And the not-knowing can make you want to just go sit out the game, sit on the bleachers and watch for awhile.

But that is exactly when the voice of the Holy Spirit comes in. She yells from the sideline "This one's coming to you!" and you know it's time to keep your eye on the ball. She gives you pointers on how to do it, if you're listening. We live out Jesus' commandments not in a field of dreams, but in a field of love: gritty, get-your-hands-dirty love. And when you make the play that comes to you, just listen for that voice of the Holy Spirit, cheering you on with all the company of heaven. Thanks be to God!

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