Baseball lost its sense of humor at some point in time. Antics and "tomfoolery" were once the hallmark of the game, and now, the athlete basically relies on the game to sell itself. This is true in many sports, not just baseball, but baseball once gave us great nicknames, great stories, and great practical jokes visible to all to see.
Imagine my surprise last week when something happened in baseball that has the potential to become lore. For some reason, the umpire that night had a burr in his saddle, and he summarily ordered Adrian Beltre to stand on the batting circle. Now, I've been to many baseball games in my lifetime, pro, college, and high school. I've sat behind the first base line on many occasions and in my total memory, my question was always, "Why don't they stand on the batting circle?" You will note that batters get their gear, wipe the bat, put a weight on the bat and begin swinging, mostly off the circle. But no, the umpire focused on Arian Beltre and ordered him to stand on the circle. Beltre gave his rationale: "That's a great place to get hit." The umpire was relentless, so Beltre complied by simply picking up the circle and moving it to where he was standing. Now, baseball has very strict rules on the configuration of the field, which includes the batting circle (on-deck circle) - click here for a view.
The umpire wasn't amused (although the rest of baseball was). Beltre found himself tossed for moving the circle (essentially a mat, not a diagram on the field). I felt it was funny. "You want me on the circle, fine, I'll move it over here and stand on it." Classic, but the ump decided tossing Beltre for his defiant act was the needed move.
The umpire reminded me of the Pharisees in scripture, all too aware of the technicality of something but lost in the spirit of the event. He erupted against a player. It's interesting to read the term "stiff-necked" in the Book of Concord and see that it relates to people of faith ("...to condemn only the false and seductive teachings and the stiff-necked teachers..." - "Preface to the Book of Concord"), who really believe they are people of faith. In scripture, we see the Pharisees on many occasions observing Christ's actions and deeming them unacceptable because they, the actions, don't follow "respected traditions."
As we look back at the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13, we remember that Christ said the owner of the field told the servants not to pull the weeds, but rather wait until they mature together and then at harvest they would be separated. As our Pastor noted, when does the church, like the Pharisees, pull a weed when in fact it may have been a perfectly good and healthy crop? Are we more concerned about what the people are wearing in church or that they are there hearing the Word? Are we more concerned about the young man's tattoos and piercings or that he is in church hearing the Word? Do we seem to gravitate toward the man who came in with a suit on looking fine and dapper and saying all the right things as we ignore someone who really doesn't look like us? Heal on the Sabbath, Jesus, or do you not know healing on the Sabbath isn't permissible? You get the idea.
We need to be in constant prayer that we are not stiff-necked people of "faith." We need to pray that our faith is one that is excited on sharing the Word of God and reaching out to the lost. As our Pastor notes, we need to remember God is God, acknowledge we are not God, and remember to let God be God, and pray to have Him use us as His vessels.
Hope Men's Ministry