CHICAGO---One of the Milwaukee ballgame conversations Saturday night concerned work. Lutheran pastor Don Thompson described a Midwestern work ethic: "If you say you'll do it, you'll do it. If you say you'll be there, you'll be there. If you bid a job and it takes long, you'll do the job at the price agreed on." Kids traditionally have to work to save money for their first car, instead of having parents give it to them. (Financial free grace for teens is not grace at all.)
Susan and I saw determination even at the ballpark: Some older people could barely walk up the stairs, but the Brewers were so important to them that they still attend games.
We also noticed a baseball work ethic: The prime slugger of the visiting Texas Rangers is Josh Hamilton, once a top draft choice and then a drug addict who fell out of baseball for three years. But, as Hamilton testifies, Christ changed his heart: He dropped drugs and got himself back in shape. That put him in a position to hit a home run that became the difference in a game his team won 4-3.
The Brewers' top hitter is Prince Fielder, a first baseman with 260 pounds of official weight and looking even larger. He struck out three times and popped out with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Maybe much of the weight is genetic---his dad, Cecil Fielder, was also enormous---but if he's not in the best shape he can be, he's stealing from his team and from the fans.
We saw athletes at work (disguised by the "play ball" beginning of a "game") on Saturday night and heard about grace on Sunday morning. That's when we worshipped at Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Winnetka, Ill. Pastor Stuart Latimer---we knew him when he was the Reformed University Fellowship minister at Vanderbilt---preached an excellent sermon about the female sinner in Luke 7 who washed Christ's feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Pharisees didn't like that.
Latimer said, "We can talk about grace but lead lives that are very judgmental and disparaging that push people away." It seems to me that since we're fallen, sometimes we take a good thing---the work ethic---and make it ultimate. The traditional work ethic in the 1950s provided a solid foundation for the next half-century of American prosperity, but did many people think like the elder brother in the prodigal son story also recorded by Luke? Did hard work without joy lead to the younger brother reaction of the 1960s?
After church we headed into Chicago to see the beginning of Route 66, which opened in 1926 as one of the original U.S. highways. We headed southwest on 66 to St. Louis. . . .