Welcome Little Leaguers, traveling families, and attending guests. We locals look forward to hosting this annual baseball world classic. More importantly, this is an opportunity to add to the quality of both our lives. When we look carefully, we can see the Lord reminding us of old truths and teaching us new lessons.
The International Little League is more than a set of games; it is a phenomenon for good. Or perhaps even better, a lesson in bible study and theological understanding. We are learning to see the sacred in the secular. God's presence can be seen in all the festivities that make up the Little League World Series: courtesy, caring, forgiveness, spontaneity and grace. In a world that often seems selfish and inward bound, it's refreshing to witness an event that reaches across racial, cultural, economic, political and national boundaries. It brings people of good will together.
Pennsylvania's founder William Penn, 330 years ago, had a vision of a place of personal liberty. There he mused that freedom of religious expression was a necessary ingredient in a healthy society. He nurtured an international consciousness: to his Anglican heritage (England) Penn added the Quaker (Irish introduction) commitment to human dignity, and with his several visits to the German Brethren Pietists (upper Rhine), he created a movement that filled Pennsylvania with a multicultural population. He proposed that "Sylvania," as King Charles II wanted to call the new province, be a hospitable place for all peoples.
Penn could not have possibly appreciated that his vision, in part, would inspire baseball for kids, let alone have realized the many, many other selfless acts of caring that happen in an open society. But here we are, in the summer of 2012, watching literally thousands of people from around the word converging in this part of Penn's Woods; not just anywhere mind you, but yes, here in Williamsport.
Jesus, the living Christ, who encouraged unity and understanding, inspired William Penn's faith in a loving God. No doubt he mused with others around the language of the apostle Paul (see Romans 12) in developing a personal piety that leads to action. I would suggest you consider these dimensions of spirituality in the games this week: "Do not think of yourself more highly that you ought ..." (patience, take your turn), "We who are many, are one body ..." (be a team and cooperate), "Have gifts that differ ..." (we can't all be pitchers), "Outdo one another in showing honor ..." (there are no losers), "Extend hospitality to the stranger ..." (welcome to Pennsylvania).
Little League is a venue for teaching, learning and growing, even for fans. So go to South Williamsport. Enjoy the games. Introduce yourself to people. Be proud of our baseball heritage here in Lycoming County. And be encouraged in these difficult days to be an outward-bound person that works toward bringing people together in the game of life.
Waltz is a retired American Baptist pastor and member First Baptist Church, 380 W. Fourth St.