A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Time to Hit a Home Run

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA. 
Sometimes you hit a home run,
and sometimes..........not so much.
Celebrating the first day of spring,
means different things to different people.
Some get garden supplies ready.
Some have their lawn mowers tuned.
Others break out the shorts and got o Ritas for a free Italian Ice.
For me, the first day of spring
makes me think of baseball .........
and piano lessons.
You might wonder about
the connection between those two things.
As a child,
I remember having this fear of balls flying towards my head.
I don't know what was the source of this fear,
but I do remember that whenever Dad would play catch with me,
I would always cringe when the ball was launched my way.
My Dad would talk about me playing little league baseball
when I was old enough.
Back in the day, that would be ten years old,
the summer after fourth grade.
But when I was in first grade,
I remember asking Mom and Dad if I could take piano lessons.
My two older sisters were taking lessons
and mostly hating it.
All I knew was that I was fascinated by the piano.
I remember coming up to the piano when they weren't practicing
(which was quite often)
and figuring out how to play familiar tunes.
Then I began to peek inside their lesson books,
and I began to figure out basic music principles.
As each spring arrived,
first grade, second, grade, third grade.......
I would ask if I could take piano lessons.
"You don't want to take piano lessons"
my parents would say,
"You're going to play baseball!"
I never quite understood why my sisters, who hated lessons,
had to take piano lessons
while I, who wanted desperately to crawl up on the piano bench,
was barred from membership to the keyboard club.
All I knew was that in a few years,
I would be playing little league baseball,
and that I would be scared to death
of that little orb flying toward my cranium.
Oh, I left clues about my desires.....
like figuring out how to play "The Frog Chorus" song on page 58 of my sisters' book,
before they could play it
or playing a piano solo at a third grade assembly
and not thinking that it was any big deal
until my unknowing mom almost fell out of her chair
when her son marched up to the piano and nailed Heart and Soul.
Nope, I was going to play baseball.
That's what boys in the 60's did.
When the spring of my fourth grade year rolled around,
my dad took me to Little League registration.
My dad had been a pretty good ball player in his day.
His reputation as ball player in the town was larger than life.
"You're Norm's boy!" the balding, pot bellied man behind the table ellowed.
We're going to put you in the A league.
I guess a middle aged man puffing on a cigar
thought I was the second coming of Babe Ruth.
As I was being shipped off to the A league of Little League Baseball,
sirens were going off in my head.
The A league was the "major leagues" reserved for the really good players.
Inside, I was begging that they put me in the B league,
the league designed for kids who were afraid of baseballs cracking their skulls.
Obviously, they had big plans for Norm's boy.
And obviously, they didn't know about my ball phobia.
Where do you place a boy who thinks every baseball
is like a Scud missile homing in on his head?
3rd base of course.
The hot spot.
I spent two very successful weeks in the A league
before I was put on waivers and sent to the B league,
for a player to be named later.
I felt a bit of relief playing in the minor leagues of little league baseball,
but a baseball is a baseball no matter what league you are in,
and my head was still one of my most valued possessions.
For a ten year old who was out of his comfort zone,
the season seemed to last for about 10 months.
The last game of the season,
our team was trailing by a run and we had a runner on 1st base.
Norm's boy came up to the plate.
Hits had been pretty scarce for Norm's boy throughout the summer that wouldn't end.
That was until that moment.
Norm's boy ripped a weak dribbler
that was botched by the 3rd baseman
(no doubt he was terrified of flying baseballs too...)
The 3rd baseman, in a panic,
through the ball over the 1st baseman's head.
Norm's boy, in a state of shock that he had reached base,
took it to the next level, and headed for 2nd.
The shell shocked 1st basement
who was likely experiencing an adrenaline rush,
launched the wayward ball towards 2nd base,
overshooting it by twenty feet.
The ball dribbled into the outfield toward the left fielder
who was probably studying at the clouds to see which one looked like an elephant.
Meanwhile, Norm's boy, focused as never before,
steamed past 2nd base towards third when he heard the coach
scream something he had never heard before....
"Head for home boy!"
Norm's boy did just that.
He crossed the plate as the cloud surfing left fielder
finally realized that the ball was laying in front of him.
Home run!
Our team took the lead!
Norm's boy had never been high fived before in the dugout,
probably because Norm's boy had never hit a home run,
or as some scorekeepers would call it,
a four base error.
That was the highpoint of life in the B league for me.
After the season was over,
I asked my parent's one more time if I could take piano lessons.
My father,
doing a quick inventory in his head of my baseball skills said,
"Sure, why not?"
Sometimes you know what your passion is.
It doesn't matter how young or old you are.
You know what you are supposed to be doing.
Some people choose to ignore those yearnings deep inside,
others are blocked by circumstances or conditions.
But to those who listen to their heart,
follow their passion.
For some, it is playing an instrument.
For others it is working on car engines or painting.
Some become the surgeons that heal.
Each of has a passion and a purpose.
Spring also reminds me of the One who had as His purpose,
to save the world from itself.
I often wonder at what age did Jesus came into awareness of His divine purpose as a child.
I have a feeling it was before he begged for piano lessons.
At anytime, he could have chosen to walk away from that purpose......
in the desert with Satan,
as he looked upon Jerusalem, the holy city,
before Pilate.
But He didn't.
Because he knew His purpose
and that purpose led to His passion.
Since the Bible makes numerous references to Christ’s death on the cross
(many of which explicitly tell us the spiritual significance of His death)
I sometimes wonder why so many people fail to understand the purpose of Christ, stated in plain language, time and time again?
Could it be that people compromise everything that the Bible says about Christ’s death on the cross,
in a vain attempt to make it agree with God’s law,
and with the delusion that works make us righteous ?(Romans 3:19-20).
If so, what people fail to understand is that the law and gospel are two separate messages
that are intended for two entirely different groups of people.
In other words, because the law cannot make us righteous, its purpose is not to make us righteous,
but to point us to Christ by showing us our sin and need for the forgiveness that He obtained for us by His death (Romans 3:10-20, Galatians 3:24).
That being the case, the law is God’s warning to the unrepentant,
while the gospel is God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ to all who repent (1Timothy 1:9, 1Corinthians 15:1-4, Galatians 3:6-22).
Through the law, God shows the unrepentant their sin, while reminding them that they will someday have to account for those sins.
Through the gospel, on the other hand, He comforts those who are sorry for their sins, while assuring them of forgiveness in Christ.
For that reason, God never intended for the gospel to agree with the law.
On the contrary, the law must be proclaimed in a way that makes it clear that there is none righteous,
while the gospel is preached in a way that makes it clear that salvation is through Christ alone,
without the works of the law (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:10-28 and 11:6, Galatians 3:6-22 and 5:4).  
Eventually my parents understood my purpose, but it took a while.
There are many for whom it is taking a while to understand God's passion for them,
and for understanding God's purpose for their lives.
This spring, and this Easter,
take time to dwell on God's passion and purpose for you.
Take time to share that passion with someone who doesn't understand.
Who knows,
you just might hit a home run.

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