My wife Nancy showed me the baseball standings in the newspaper at breakfast this morning. In the National League East, every team had zero wins and zero losses, with winning percentages of .000. The slate had been wiped clean for opening day, and every team was starting fresh with a brand new season.
My home team, the Washington Nationals, were listed behind Atlanta, Miami, New York and Philadelphia, but only because the teams were displayed in the paper alphabetically. My hope is that this is the last time the Nats will sit at the bottom of the list.
Any mistakes made in the 2014 season have now been forgiven, and every player and manager can begin the new season with a fresh start. I love that opening day is Easter Monday this year, especially since I just preached a sermon on the resurrection of Jesus. Yesterday I told the congregation of Fairfax Presbyterian Church that Christ is alive and well, with a message of forgiveness and new life for all who put their trust in him. Today I'll be going to opening day at Nationals Park and experiencing a fresh start for the Nats and the Mets.
How much happier we'd all be if we saw Easter as a true opening day, with our slates wiped clean by the gift of forgiveness. Although we hear the promise of Scripture that "everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43), we still go through life feeling a crushing burden of guilt and regret. Jesus resets our standings to zero wins and zero losses and gives us a completely fresh start, if only we are willing to believe in him and his ability to do this.
More often, we live like players and coaches in the NCAA basketball tournament -- which ends tonight with the championship game. In this tournament, a single loss knocks you out, which is part of the reason that it is called March Madness. Kentucky went into the Final Four as an undefeated team, with a group of freshman players that had never lost a single college game! But then Wisconsin defeated them, leaving their coach John Calipari with the challenge of keeping things in perspective. After the game, he tried to make the case that falling short of 40-0 does not mean that their season was a failure.
Kentucky certainly had an amazing run, and their players and coaches deserve tremendous credit. But as a diehard Duke fan, I'm happy that they were eliminated before the Blue Devils had to play them.
Better to live according to baseball, especially in terms of forgiveness and new life. Baseball offers a fresh start every opening day, and then a long season in which mistakes will be made and then forgotten by the very next game. March Madness basketball, on the other hand, is single elimination with no second chances. Once the NCAA tournament begins, only perfection leads to advancement.
March Madness is great fun, but for me the Easter Season is best expressed by baseball and the new life that comes with opening day.