One thing that sports helps us see is our inborn hunger for glory. We are constantly trying to lay a hold of something transcendent, even in our hobbies and pastimes. In every sport, nearly every season, something or someone will claim to having achieved something of eternal significance. This year in baseball, one of the stories that baseball fans have followed all year long is Mariano Rivera’s final season as a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees. Rivera has been one of the best, if not the best relief pitcher in baseball. At 43 years old, he still demands respect and he remains (uncharacteristically for a New York Yankee) humble about his accomplishments.
Rivera is a believer in Jesus Christ and has used his career in baseball to the glory of God, in his own way. In every city he has played in this year he has taken the time to gather (with the help of the home team staff) a group of ball field maintenance workers and stadium employees and thank them for what they contribute to the game. He has been fetted in every ball diamond in the American League this season. Last week, in his final appearance at the Rogers Centre, his opponents, the Toronto Blue Jays presented him with an Inuit statue celebrating his remarkable career.
As good as Rivera has been, the truth is that his remarkable achievements won’t last. The Yankees are out of playoff contention and in about a month someone will get the last out of the final game of the 2013 World Series (please not a Red Sox player) and Rivera’s career milestone will slip a bit in the collective memory of baseball. In five years, maybe ten, there will be someone else challenging his accomplishments. Anyone suggesting today that Rivera’s 602 saves will never be equaled is saying more about possible demise of baseball as a spectator sport than about the transcendence of Rivera’s accomplishments.
The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecc 3:11)
God made a countless number of stars in the sky to show us that we are never going to get to the end of counting them. God has put a yearning in our hearts for the truly magnificent and glorious that we will never totally satisfy to show us that no matter how glorious our man-made spectacles, there is one sight that will surpass them all: the moment we enter glory, in the presence of God, the author of wonder. It will be true glory when we see the one whom legends imitate, the one who is the true closer, the one who truly saves. That will be glorious.