I have never been a huge baseball fan. I like the game....but I have no idea what the stats of players are....nor do I care. I just enjoy watching the game. I am not a fanatic....I am just an interested observer. I have met the likes of Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax when I was a child and the Braves and Expos did their spring training in West Palm Beach, where I grew up. They were both impressive men. The other day I found this little devotional about baseball and I had to share it with you today.
“In the seventh inning, Sandy Koufax found his arm once again and struck out the side. Larry “the Mouth” Davies catches a pop-up ending the inning with the bases loaded but not before Cal Ripken is hit home by Mike Schmidt: the score now stands as, All Stars 5 and Church Team only 3.
In sports, we quickly learn the sometimes ugly reality that one team wins while another must lose. Becoming a follower of God was never presented as a never-ending string of wins, victories and continual success. Sometimes, losing, tragedy and grief become part of our journey with God but either way I believe we are meant to play on a team and how we play, win or lose defines who we are. One of the most amazing things I find today is that kids are not taught that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We seem to have taken away from the children and youth of today that sense of loss. It is sad because when they DO lose....and we all do sometimes they cannot handle defeat. I am a natural competitor and I hate to lose....to the point that I won't play Monopoly with my husband Frank because he ALWAYS wins....so therefore....I don't play, period. But given my natural instinct to win...which we all have by the way....I have lost in my life....and know how to deal with it. Fortunately since I was a young I have had God in my life...and understand how character building is played. I may not always like losing....but I do know that win or lose...God will get me through it...because....I am on the greatest team ever....I am on the Chosen Ones.
Romans 12 slightly altered using baseball terminology says: “And so, fellow teammates, I plead with you to give your team to God. Let them be willing to make a holy sacrifice—the kind deep in the outfield. When you think of what God has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the other team, but let God transform you into a new player by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his coaching really is.” (Romans 12:1-2 NRBV – New Revised Baseball Version)
The best baseball teams are full of players who are ever willing and ready to give their all for the good of the team. These are the players you see slamming into the outfield wall or diving to the ground to make the big catch. Their passion and love for the sport is evident whether they are on the field or off. They live, breathe and eat baseball until at times you’re sick of hearing it but you admire their passion. That is what I want....passion....one pure and holy passion. I want the kind of passion for Christ....that I see at the ballgame on a Saturday afternoon. I want that Super Bowl shouting kind of dedication for Christ. So, I have to ask myself....how can I get some of that?....I want others to look at me and say those same kinds of words.....How can I get some of what she has?....or...I want a double dose of her enthusiasm. I don't want to be lukewarm....I want to be hot as a firecracker for Christ!
As Disciples of Christ we learn to concentrate on winning in a different way. We have the opportunity to give ourselves totally to God without reservation. This “give everything you have” attitude will allow God to transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. You will know God’s purpose and how much God wants to guide your life. Your passion and love for God becomes more evident whether in church or out. You live and breathe your passion for God until at times, others are sick of hearing you but they can’t help but admire your passion. This passion for God becomes your witness.
Speaking of passion… Jack Norworth wrote a poem in 1927 about Nelly Kelly a passionate fan who would rather go to a baseball game than anywhere else. The chorus is routinely sung during the seventh inning. Will you join me? “Take me out to the ball game. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I don't care if I never get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don't win it's a shame. For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out, at the old ball game.”
Paul goes on to say in Romans: “As God’s player, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much ability God has given you. Just as your team has many players and each player has a special function, so it is with Christ’s team. We are all players of his one team, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one team in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs the others.” (Romans 12:3-5)
Good baseball players understand their strengths and weaknesses so when playing together as a team they know who plays first base, who bats cleanup and who pitches. I played right field in softball cause I am good at catching a left handers ball. I also played centerfield a good bit. I stink as a baseman. I am not agile enough....but in this devotional Paul is challenging us to honestly know our own gifts and talents so that we know what work we are to do. We are needed and wanted and knowing your gifts allows you to contribute in an exceptional way to God’s team.
Do you know your gifts? Your talents? Your strengths? Don't you think it is time you find out and get on the winning team....because let me tell you....win or lose....with Christ on your team....you are always a winner.
Peace Be With You!