It’s the bottom of the 7th inning, the game is tied, and the leadoff batter gets on base. The team’s best hitter comes to the plate and the crowd gets excited, imagining an extra-base hit or even a homerun that will help insure the game will be won. But a good baseball fan knows what that hitter is probably going to do. He’s going to sacrifice-bunt. He’s actually going to purposely arrange it so that he will be thrown out at first base. The other team knows it too and the infielders come in closer so as to make sure they can get to the bunt quickly enough to make the throw for the out. It’s one of those things that makes non-baseball fans scratch their heads. Trying to make an out seems illogical. Isn’t the whole point of baseball to try not to make an out?
Well, the strategy of the sacrifice bunt is that the runner on first will advance to second when the bunt is put down and have a better chance of scoring. Statistics bear that out. There is an exponentially higher probability of scoring from second with one out, or even two, than there is scoring from first with no outs. It’s a delayed gratification sort of thing where one player offers himself for the good of the team, hoping to gain more good later with the win than he might right then with a hit of his own. The good baseball player knows that the team is more important than he is and so he gives of himself for the good of the whole.
In some ways tithing – the giving of ten percent of our financial resources – is like a sacrifice bunt. While it could be argued that the whole point of making money is to have more of it to do with as we please, the church teaches us to give a lot of our money away. We lay down some of what we have so that the good of the whole may be furthered.
Churches, however, have members who are here of their own accord rather than players that we have some control over. A coach can give the hitter the bunt sign and if he doesn’t bunt, that player will be put on the bench. If he repeatedly ignores the bunt sign, he’ll soon be looking for another team. But I’m the rector and not the head coach here and, while I keep giving you the bunt sign, I can’t do a whole lot about it if you don’t bunt. I can keep calling team meetings and explaining the benefits of sacrifice bunting. I can take you aside and assure you that the strategy is a good one. But until you decide to lay down that bunt, you’re just not going to understand.
Whenever the coach gave me the bunt sign, I didn’t like it. I always thought of myself as a pretty good hitter and I thought I had a pretty good chance of driving in the runner myself. But I had to learn to bunt in order to be a good baseball player. Similarly I didn’t particularly like it when the church told me to tithe. I’d prefer to keep that money for myself and use it as I think best. Having somebody else tell me what I should do with it didn’t sit too well with me. But I’ve had to learn to tithe in order to be a good church member.
It’s the bottom of the 7th inning and the score is tied. We may even be down a run. There’s a runner on first. And I’m giving you the bunt sign. Tithe. Give 10% of your money for the good of the team. Put down some of what is yours so that others, all of us and not just you, can benefit. In order to learn how to be a good church member, you need to learn how to sacrifice-bunt. You’ll benefit too. As your church improves, it will be to your advantage. But mainly you just need to do it because people who can’t lay down something of theirs for the good of the whole aren’t the kind of people anyone wants to be around. They’re self-centered and they think they can do it better their way. Bunt! Tithe! We’re not just a bunch of individuals here swinging for the fences, trying to impress some heavenly scouts. We’re a community of faith and your sacrifice is necessary for the good of the whole.
Stewardship Meetings, lasting about 30 minutes, will be held at the following times in the Parish Hall. Please attend one meeting, hear about Christian giving and St. John’s plans for the year ahead, pick up your pledge packet, and make a financial pledge for 2015. Those unable to attend a meeting will be called on by canvassers.
Sunday, October 5, at noon
Thursday, October 9, at 5:00 pm
Sunday, October 12, at noon
Tuesday, October 14, at noon
Sunday, October 19, at noon
Come on. It’s a fun part of the game.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.