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The Seventh Inning Stretch

Last night Katie and I got a chance to go to our beloved Reds stadium, Great American Ballpark. We enjoyed the best weather baseball could ask for while watching the Reds trounce the Cardinals--all in all, a great evening!

As tradition would have it, everyone stood and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" midway through the seventh inning--well, almost everyone. I was so enjoying the comfort of the light breeze and with how many homeruns the Reds had been hitting, I was quite stretched already and felt no need to join in with the masses of 21,000 people coarsely singing along with a Hammond's finest rendition of the beloved tune. But I felt quite out of place when I realized I was among the only patrons sitting. Even the elderly couple behind me had stood to jovially call out along with everyone else that it was "one, two, three strikes you're out!"

Yet I stood my ground. Or rather, sat it, as it were. I observed other patrons around me, some fully engrossed in the song with arm motions and loud singing, others just stood stretching their legs and arms, and a few just stood because they felt compelled to stand.

It was then that the thought of Sunday morning worship involvement nudged its way into the back of my head. There is an expectation that by being present in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning that you are planning to sing along and participate with other people around you. Whether you stand and sing because you love the opportunity to sing out, whether you stand because sitting for a full hour first thing in the morning is too dull, or whether you stand simply because others are and so it seemed like a good idea.
And some people choose to sit. "I just walked in and after spending the last 15 minutes standing talking in the foyer, I feel compelled to sit. Indeed, I don't feel like singing either because I don't want to. I'm quite comfortable just being me, Mr. Worship leader, thankyouverymuch."

It is at this juncture that I don't want to sound hypocritical or degrading. I think it is a perfectly noble thing to sit and not sing along if you feel that you have some inner heart preparing to do before you can sing. I think it is perfectly acceptable to not sing along if you find the key too high, or the song too unfamiliar, or the arrangement too confusing (hopefully us worship leaders will continue to find songs that accommodate numerous vocal types, have predictable forms, and repeat them often). I also think it is perfectly acceptable to not participate just because people around you are--you have to feel a sense of personal obligation unto God to participate, not unto your fellow man.

However, there is a certain joy that comes from joining a larger movement--be it spectating and cheering for your favorite sports team, running/walking as part of a fundraiser 5k, singing in a choir, or joining in with fellow church goers as you worship a great and deserving God. "Behold how good and how pleasant for brethren to sing [dwell] together in unity!" (Ps 133).

And likewise, there is (or at least should be) something enjoyable about sitting in proximity with your fellow man in order to share in a spectacular play, high five one another after a home run, or even just to hear the comedic sportscast they provide.
And yet as I looked across the stadium last night I saw the upper deck of seats sprinkled quite evenly with a few people here, a few people there--no party cozied up to the next without a seat buffer between them (obviously the exception is the good seats down front). I, myself, was guilty of locating some seats closer to the field that were numerous enough that we wouldn't have to sit directly beside any other patrons. The shame!

Why do we feel that we must keep space from one another in public spaces, church included?? Shouldn't it be a joy to sit next to someone you haven't met, knowing that you are united by being there for a similar cause? Be it ballpark games or church going, we should strive to find the best seat in the house and share it with like-minded individuals. I guarantee it will make the game/worship service much more enjoyable!

Why, you may ask? Because you have the opportunity to interact! You can read the Bible and sing songs by yourself any old time! You only have limited opportunities throughout the week to share in fellowship with other Christians! Praise God for soap and clean clothes so that when we sit close to one another we don't have to suffer for it :)
(the above is not always true at a ballpark)

Join me in revolutionizing the church. Let's bring back the 7th Inning Stretch.

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