On this date in 1984 the record of the Detroit Tigers was 8-0. By May 1 it was 19-2. Many of you will remember that they went on to win 104 games in the regular season and ended up as World Series champions.
On this date in 2003 the record of the Detroit Tigers was 1-11. By May 1 it was up to 9-17. You might also remember that by season’s end they had set a club record for losses at 106. This record still stands today (Last year they were 8-8 on April 16 and missed tying the record by two losses).
On this date in 2020 the record of the Detroit Tigers is 0-0. I have no idea when they will play their first game, let alone come home with a win. I do know that I had tickets for the March 30 home opener this year, and to a preseason game in Lakeland, that are still in the drawer.
I also know that, amidst all the changes from one season to the next, every runner who scores a run during any season must touch all four bases for the run to count. It does not matter if you hit it in the center field bleachers (1984), the Pepsi Porch (2003) or even the berm in Lakeland, this rule remains the same. No matter where the batter is standing when the ball goes over the outfield wall, if he skips a base his run will not count. And this rule remains the same no matter if you are a major leaguer or a T-ball player. It’s just the way things are.
In many ways it feels as though we may be near second base in our nation’s COVID-19 pandemic – at least that is my thought and prayer. I am as tired of social distancing, facemasks and closed church buildings as you may be. In some ways the new round of restrictions in our state seem a little over-board to me. On the other hand, I also know how uncommon “common sense” is, and that rules often need to be over-the-top in order to get reasonable behavior. The challenge comes, I think, when we do not all agree on what reasonable behavior will enable us to touch all the basis.
St. Paul addresses a similar challenge as he talks about Christian freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. … For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5.1, 13-15)
The Gospel of Jesus frees us … from self-serving narcissism … to be self-sacrificing neighbor-lovers. Questions like “What’s in it for me?” and “How can I bend the rules in my favor?” are replaced with “How can I help so that everyone crosses home-plate?” and “What can I do to make things better for my neighbor?” To the natural flesh this sounds like a movement from freedom to slavery, but you know where the ways of the flesh take us. “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who love according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8.5-6)
This COVID-19 pandemic provides an incredible opportunity for the people of God in Christ Jesus to step up to the plate. I am thinking the bases are something like this: 1st = trust Jesus … 2nd = lover others … 3rd = share ideas (includes listening) … Home Plate = sacrificial service … remembering that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5.1, 14-15)
And Christ Jesus, through his death and resurrection, and in our baptism, has set us free to PLAY BALL!