“Winning streak! What winning streak are you talking about? You cannot call the Tigers winning one game any kind of a winning streak.” While you are definitely right from that perspective, consider for a moment Edwin Jackson. Last night, in his 17th season playing for his 13th team while pushing 36 years of age, he won his second game in a row – on his second time around with the Tigers. In my eyes, that is a winning streak.
I was there, personally, to watch it – which is actually part of a winning streak for me. This streak started last Friday as the six members of our immediate family climbed into our minivan at 5:15 a.m. and them emerged nearly eight hours later in Wisconsin after a smooth and fun drive. This was followed by a fabulous weekend centered around our niece’s wedding and another event-free eight-hour drive home on Monday. I won’t bore you with the details … except to say that “Sie Leben Hoch” continues to be a winner every time. Tuesday and Wednesday were all about our reconnection to an old neighbor (they moved from Hayes in 1991). This has been a winning streak of fun and special events.
But the real winning streak that I am talking about comes under the title Christus Victor – Christ the Victor. I will pick up the narrative in the Gospel of Mark, with Jesus saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1.15) Three years later, as he is nailed to the cross, we are told “The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’” (Mark 15.26) Then, shortly after Jesus says, “It is finished/accomplished” (John 19.30), we hear a Roman centurion proclaim, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15.39) While I admit it is difficult to see any kind of a winning streak in a story that seems to end like this, the explanation is introduced three days later as the resurrected Christ says, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24.25)
We (numbered among those “foolish ones”) tend to see winning streaks fought for in wars and athletic contests, and in Democrats seeking to dethrone Republicans (or vice versa) – its all about power, dominance and burying our opponents.
However, this is not how God in Christ Jesus works. The key words in his winning streak are service … sacrifice … “blessing those who curse you and praying for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6.28) … patient endurance. Just this past week I again have seen God opening multiple doors that looked permanently locked to me. And he seems to keep doing it in his same old, surprising way … generally not through debates or powerful (and often emotional) arguments, but through open ears, simple questions, caring comments, sincere acts of kindness and the bonding of lives through joyous and fun activities.
Consider for a moment how the death of Jesus opened the door of the centurion’s heart and you will start to get the picture. Jesus, one person at a time, works through simple people like you and me, calming troubled hearts … offering healing and hope … freely providing “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61.3) If your eyes are open, and you have a smile on your face with kind words coming from your lips, you are bound to witness similar things happening around you today.
And with that, you will continue to be a participant in the greatest winning streak of all time..