Mark S. Mitchell

Pastor, Writer, Follower of Jesus


Faith, Baseball, and the SF Giants

I’ve been a Giant fan my entire life. I was weaned on Mays, McCovey, Cepeda and hot dog wrappers flying in the gusts of wind at Candlestick Park. Growing up, it seemed like we always came in second, but now we’ve won another World Series title. These are good days to be a Giant fan.

Walt Whitman said, “The game of ball is glorious,” and I think he was onto something. There are so many parallels between faith and baseball. Maybe that’s why we love it so much.

Baseball has its cathedrals – amazing ballparks, hallowed grounds, two of which were featured this past week: Comerica Park and our own blessed AT&T! The first time I walked into a big league ballpark as a boy what I felt was akin to worship.

Baseball has its saints – e.g. Lou Gehrig (the Iron Horse) and Jackie Robinson (the first African-American player of the modern era) – and sinners – e.g. “Pete Rose (who made a bet) and Barry Bonds (who took steroids). It has its Suffering Servant – the Chicago Cubs, a team “like a sheep led to the slaughter.” There is even the Great Satan: the Los Angeles Dodgers (at least for those of us in the Bay Area).

Baseball always brings out the child in you, and draws you back to your childhood, indeed makes your childhood present. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.” (Mark 10:15)

Baseball is all about TEAM. The Giants epitomized that this year. There was a lack of ego; a willingness to play whatever role contributed to the team’s success. “As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:20-21) Even in the broadcast booth this was evident as Hall of Famer, John Miller, handed the mic to young Dave Fleming to make the historic call in the 10th inning!

Baseball abounds in hope (Rom. 15:13). Even when a team is down two games to none, or three games to one, there is still hope. Even when the last out of the season is made there is always, “Next year!” Maranatha!

Finally, even our sometimes idolatrous love of our team can teach us about our salvation. So many of us in the Bay Area identify with the Giants. It’s like we’re connected to them. This is a small picture of the way we must identify with Jesus. In the Old Testament, when you brought an offering to God, you laid your hands on the head of the animal and confessed your sins. The laying of the hands on the animal showed that you identified yourself with the animal. In salvation, we identify ourselves with Jesus: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom. 6:5) For us, in a small way, when the Giants win, we feel like we win. When they lose, we feel like we lose. In a way, that’s also true of our relationship with Jesus. When He died, we died. When He rose, we rose. The new life He has, we have in Him.

The best part of this whole deal is that Jesus can’t really lose; as long as we identify ourselves in Him, we always win. Even in seeming defeat (the cross), dare I say, especially in seeming defeat, we have the sure hope of the resurrection. The Giants will eventually disappoint, but He never will disappoint.

Congratulations, San Francisco Giants! You’ve made me a true believer!


Rivulets of the Soul

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.
Each morning I will bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

Psalm 5:3

I have found that there is nothing more important and more difficult in my relationship with Christ than developing a robust prayer life. But as crucial as it is, I have also found that guilt is a substandard motivation for prayer. Recently, I discovered a way of thinking about prayer that helps me want to pray.

I’m slowly working my way through Ben Patterson’s book on praying the Psalms: God’s Prayer Book: The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms. In his comments on Psalm 5, he tells a story about a man named Jack Sanford who looks back fondly on his childhood visits to the old family farmhouse in New Hampshire. There was an old well in the front yard. The water from the well was surprisingly pure and cold. No matter how hot the summer or severe the drought, the well was always a dependable source of refreshment. As Jack grew older, he often thought of that faithful old well, but eventually the farmhouse was modernized with indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water. The old well was no longer needed and sealed shut.

Years later, Jack returned to the farmhouse and found himself longing for the cold, pure water of his youth. So he unsealed the well and lowered a bucket for a taste of the refreshment he once enjoyed. But he was shocked to find that the well had gone bone dry. He wondered what had happened and so he began to ask several of the locals. He finally learned that wells of that sort are fed by hundreds of tiny underground rivulets. As long as water is consistently being drawn from the well, new water will flow in through the rivulets, keeping them open so that more water can flow. But when the water stops flowing, the rivulets get plugged up with mud and the flow stops. It turns out the well dried up not because it was used too much but because it wasn’t used enough.

Ben writes, “Our souls are like that well. If we do not draw regularly and frequently on the living water that Jesus promised would well up in us like a spring, our hearts will close and dry up. The consequence of not drinking deeply of God is to eventually lose the ability to drink at all. Prayerlessness is its own worst punishment, both its disease and cause.”

What a great encouragement this is to persevere in a life of disciplined prayer. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Like King David, I want to keep the water flowing, and perhaps the most important thing to do in accomplishing that is to just keep showing up.


Qoheleth: Preacher, Teacher, Gatherer

Qoheleth (ko-HEHL-ehth) may seem like a strange name for a blog. It’s actually the name of a book in the Bible (you may know it as Ecclesiastes). The book is named after its protagonist. Often, it is translated as Preacher or Teacher. The name actually comes from a Hebrew word that means to assemble or gather.

I resonate a lot with Qoheleth. Like him, I am a preacher and a teacher. I have served as such for over 25 years at the same church on the San Francisco Peninsula. Like Qoheleth, I see a lot of people (myself included!) seeking for meaning in life in ways that make me cry out, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” Finally, like Qoheleth, deep down I actually believe that meaning can be found in fearing God, working hard and enjoying the simple pleasures of daily life, which are all gifts from the hand of God.

I would like this blog to be a place where I gather meaningful thoughts on life, love and leadership as a human being and a follower of Jesus. These thoughts will represent an assembling of my own reflections, teachings, readings and writings. Besides being a pastor, I am a writer, a husband and a father. From time to time, I will share stories and reflections of my family, my friends, my church and my Lord. They are all very important to me. I am not sure if what I have to say is all that important, but I know that it is important for me to say it. I hope you enjoy Qoheleth!