Thursday, February 5, 2015

Of Baseball and Beggars

We Have Passed the Baseball EquinoxNow that the Super Bowl is over, my family is turning our attention to baseball season. One of my favorite baseball memories involves a couple of trips to watch the Texas Rangers play with Mission Waco, a ministry to the down and out. Each year, a few volunteers from this ministry would load up a bus with a bunch of homeless guys and head to the game. The years I went proved to be an enormous amount of fun.

I always laughed as they entered the stadium because the first thing many of the guys would do is head to the tent that was offering free t-shirts for filling out a credit-card application. Somehow I didn’t think they would qualify. 

I also got a chuckle as the beer vendors came around hawking their ware. “Ice cold beer, six dollars” they’d say in their practiced cadence. Several of the guys began to mimic their sales pitch with their own street-smart perspective, “Ice-cold relapse, six dollars.”

On one occasion, my laughter turned to concern when one of the guys got into a heated argument with a lady sitting in front of us after she made a rude comment about the way he smelled. At first, I was furious with the woman for being so unkind. Then, as the guys quickly put on display their poor people skills, I found myself embarrassed by my own company. 

There’s nothing romantic about being homeless. These guys could be as crude and rude as you can imagine. I found myself wanting to say to the lady and to anyone else who was watching, “I’m not with these guys. Well, I’m with them, but only because I’m trying to help them out. I’m not actually one of them. In fact, I’m a ministerial student.” 

I realized then, and try to remember now, that my desire to distance myself from those literal beggars, meant I still had much to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of us don’t want to be known as beggars. We want to be known as hard workers, as people who make a contribution. In contemporary political discourse we want to be makers and not takers. And yet, over and over again, the Bible makes clear that the kingdom of God can’t be earned, only received. That makes all of us in the church, as C.S. Lewis once put it, nothing more than jolly beggars.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. . . Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-27, 31

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Good Reads from the Internet this Week
  • 4 Bible Verses That Are Constantly Used out of Context – It’s easy to make Bible verses say what we want them to say. Author Thomas Turner takes a look at for verses that are frequently taken out of context and helps us understand what they may have meant to the original hearers of those words.
  • Four Lessons From the Super Bowl Losers – Jim Denison draws some insights from the team that lost the super bowl including this gem: “A score is not a soul. We are human ‘beings,’ not human ‘doings.’ We are more than our achievements and failures, no matter what the world thinks of them.”
  • Right or Wrong? Morning Prayer – The Baptist Standard recently published an article of mine on morning prayer. If you’re a Southland Member you’ve heard something similar from me before, but it might be a good refresher, nonetheless.

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