It occurs to me that I might enjoy playing a round of golf with Abraham, the biblical patriarch.
We heard about Abraham at his bargaining best in today’s first reading. He speaks up boldly about bending the rules on behalf of (a theoretical) 50 “innocent” people in the city of Sodom. Then, having secured the good Lord’s agreement for his opening offer…
Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty innocent people?”
If you know the story, you know the dickering continues for some time, until the magic number is reduced all the way to 10.
There’s more than a bit of comedy in the tale – which is why, I suppose, it reminded me a bit of my golf game. Particularly yesterday’s round, played in the company of a dear friend whose name (though not ‘Abraham’) boasts an equally venerable biblical pedigree. (Thanks for the invite, David!)
Before we’d even arrived at the course, we were both bemoaning the current state of our golf swings – unreliable at best, and often unrecognizable as anything approaching a skilled athletic movement.
Bad swings lead to bad scores. David and I both know that much. So we agreed to “play Arnie” on Saturday, rather than attempt to record a legitimate golf score. That’s Arnie – as in “Arnold Palmer”, who once played the same course, and carded a 90 (+18). Our goal in “playing Arnie”? To use the best score between us over those same 18 holes, and together somehow manage to post a lower total than the Golf-Legend-In-The-Twilight-Of-His-Career.
It’s an Abrahamic proposal if ever there was one – a bargain struck well outside the ancient and sacrosanct Rules of Golf. True competitors would be appalled at the prospect, but we were mostly just out to have fun.
As the round wore on, I noticed that the bargaining continued – at least on my part.
You see, David tends to play the ball “down”…while I’ve always been a fluffer. I improve my lie just a bit…before attempting almost any shot. I do it on my home course (with the approval and complicity of my playing companions). And I did it yesterday at Boone Valley, as part of our “Arnie” match.
No big deal, in my mind. But in truth, it’s a direct violation of the first Rule of Golf: “Play the ball as it lies.”
So, yeah: Imagine having this swing-thought swirling about…as you head into the final hole, needing a bogey or better to “beat Arnie”: “I am not innocent. I am guilty as charged.” Even as I delivered the “5” our team required to reach our dubious goal, I found myself happily acknowledging that Arnie’s legacy was not threatened in the least by our scorecard contortions.
I was also happy to detect traces of an intriguing spiritual bond with Abraham. It seems we both understand the rules, this biblical patriarch and I. On our best days, in our best moments, we both would advocate for justice.
At the same time, we are wonderstruck and delighted to discover that God’s mercy often plays at an entirely different level than we’re accustomed to. God’s mercy has the power to overcome our guilt…our fecklessness. And for all-too-often being on the receiving end of that unmerited grace, we are glad indeed.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.