In the well known movie “Field of Dreams”, there is an ongoing argument between lead actor Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella and his brother-in-law, Mark, over the family’s finances. Mark implores Ray to sell the farm since Ray is not making it as a novice Iowa farmer. The problem stems from Ray’s vision of a baseball field where his corn grows and hearing a voice whispering, “If you build it, he will come.”
In faith, he turns his corn field into a baseball field. Months pass and “he” does not come. A panicky Mark exerts more pressure on Ray out of concern for his sister and her family’s welfare. Then one night, Ray’s daughter Karin spots a uniformed man in the field whom Ray recognizes as the deceased Shoeless Joe Jackson (but Joe is not “he”). With Ray’s permission, Shoeless Joe brings out seven other deceased ball players, all banned from baseball for life in the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. Unfortunately, Mark cannot see the players. Then Ray hears a voice again urging him to “ease his pain.”
Ray grew up playing catch with his father John, who was grooming his son to be the baseball star he himself never became. As a teenager, Ray read a book by a 1960’s activist and rejected his father’s dream for him, summed up in his denunciation of Shoeless Joe Jackson as a criminal. Ray regretted not having reconciled the rift before his father died.
The movie is about this baseball field of dreams, a “Twilight Zonish” place where the dead and living can come to realize an unrealized dream. For the deceased ball players banned for life, it was to play baseball again. In the course of the movie, Ray travels to Boston to pick up the 1960’s activist, Terence Mann, whose literature turned the teen-aged Ray against his father. Mann’s dream was to find peace in a world that all the activism could never produce. He would find it in Ray’s field of dreams and prophesy (as Ray’s little daughter did) that people would come from far and wide and pay any price to partake of this oasis (as baseball, the national pastime, was not so much about the game but of forgetting about life for a while).
Before returning to Iowa, the two picked up a deceased medical doctor who appeared on the side of the road hitchhiking as a young man. Before going into medicine, Archie “Moonlight” Graham only played one baseball game but never got up to bat. His dream was to get to the plate, psyche out the pitcher,
and slide safely into third with a triple.
The main dream was for Ray to be reconciled with his deceased father John. After returning to Iowa, they saw that enough deceased ball players had joined the others to have a game. At the end of the game, the players were departing into the corn beyond the baseball field (the land of the dead). Before he departed himself for the day, Shoeless Joe Jackson looked toward the catcher at home plate and said again to Ray, “If you build it, he will come.”
Taking off his mask, Ray realized the catcher was his father, John, as a young man with whom he use to play catch as a young boy before their falling out. He knew the voice urging him to “ease his pain” referred to his father. Their reconciliation was symbolized by playing catch again. The movie ends as the camera expands its angle to show in the background a multitude of cars, bumper to bumper, approaching the ball field as Ray’s daughter and the activist had prophesied; coming to see these deceased play baseball and providing Ray and his family with an income they could never make from just farming corn.
Although not in the purview of the movie’s creators, I would invite you to see this movie as a parable about any given church community. Some (like Mark) see the church (i.e. the field) as a complex of buildings and grounds in constant need of upkeep and maintenance through fundraising. Others see the church (i.e. the field) as people as members, one of another, of the Body of Christ and in need of reconciliation, forgiveness, and love (like Ray and his father). In this type of upkeep and maintenance, people will be attracted from far and wide and give more money to sustain the church building and grounds than they could ever make from fundraising activities.
Our forefathers built the infrastructure of the churches and cultural centers here in America. We, their descendants, continue in their footsteps, subjecting the churches to meeting budgets by fundraising activities. We spend more time perpetuating real estate than perpetuating the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints. All this because we are more like Mark and not enough like Ray, trusting that God can open our coffers if we would but love one another and do the work of the Church the way Christ has commanded us to do it.
We are grossly ignorant of Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthians that the Church is not the building and grounds that are somehow an end in and of itself and the object of all our labor and concerns. Rather, the Apostle exhorts the Corinthians to see that “you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9)
Let us follow the Lord, whose burden is easy and whose yoke is light (Mt. 11:30) or follow our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, who saw fit to perpetuate the faith by building churches but not cultivating them as “fields of dreams.” For this we are consigned to that prophecy that the sins of the parents will be visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation (because we’ve become more like our forebears than like God; Ex. 34:6-7).
The choice is ours. What we sow we will reap. We can see our church as a field of dreams or just a corn field to labor in, breaking our backs (not to mention our extremities and joints) in our futile fund-raising activities, so we can egotistically present ourselves as the saviors of our communities when in essence we facilitate their demise, especially as we get older and expect a new generation to do things the way we all did.
Let us choose to break this chain of events and be vehicles through which God’s forgiveness and reconciliation can break in, by being reconciled to one another, especially on account of the resurrection of Christ. As we approach once again the great and holy Pascha, the feast of feasts, let us not meditate upon this most familiar resurrection hymn but rather upon the last hymn of the Paschal Orthros service (immediately before the Paschal Divine Liturgy begins), that makes forgiveness the CONDITION par excellence for singing out the resurrection hymn (and truly meaning it), just as the Sunday of Forgiveness ushered in Great Lent:
“It is the day of Resurrection, let us be glorious in splendor for the Festival, and let us embrace one another. Let us speak also, O brethren, to those that hate us [and to those whom we hate?], and in the Resurrection let us FORGIVE ALL THINGS and so let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead, by death he has trampled upon death and to those in the tombs he has granted life!”
Christ is Risen!
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