On Easter morning I almost opened the announcements by saying, “How about those first place Tigers?!” Then, for a while yesterday I was hoping to be able to say it again today – all we needed was to hang on to our lead over the Twins and for Cleveland to defeat the Royals. First place sounds pretty good – even if it is only April 8.
Unfortunately, the Twins scored 2 in the sixth inning, and then we had two runners thrown out at home … Cleveland breaking a 2-2 in the 8th inning to beat Kansas City ended up doing us little good. Somehow saying, “How about those third place Tigers” does not have nearly the same appeal.
There was a time when Jesus was asked, “Of the commandments, which one is in first place?” You probably know our Lord’s answer. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12.30-31) Jesus did not seem to be interested in third place either!
Yet, how often, I wonder, is that where we rank him? “At least that is middle of the pack,” you might say, “and not in the cellar. Look at all the people in the world who have actually cancelled him from the league.” While I agree that third place is better than the cellar, how many parades have you seen down Woodward celebrating a team that came in third?
And did you notice that there is a tie for second place? “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Since God loves you and your neighbor equally, so should you. And, while I know there will never be a parade down Woodward for a second place team, second is by no means shabby – that would be like saying Gonzaga’s season was worthless.
The Holy Spirit uses St. John to put the pieces together this way: “Let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love does not know the first thing about God, because God is love – so you cannot know him if you do not love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about – not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they have done to our relationship with God.” (1 John 4.7-10 message)
As God in Christ sits in first place, he does something incredible. Instead of dancing around, celebrating himself and saying, “I am the greatest!” he reaches out to all of us tied for second. Then he holds us up, over his head, and says, “You will always be in first place in my heart.”
I think that is why we are told, “First of all (or in First Place), I urge that petitions, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone.” (1 Timothy 2.1) I am thinking that a little more love-filled praying, and a little less fighting, among us in second place would go a long in our world today. And remember, this love-filled praying – with thanksgiving – is “for everyone” in second place … no matter race, or politic, or history, or attitude … and that, while I am called to have that attitude toward you, you are also called to have the same attitude about yourself (after all, if God so loves you, your choice is to either love yourself as he loves you or view him as a fool).
I know the Tigers might never be in first place again this season, but one game out is OK with me. The season is long, and I plan to enjoy (almost) every bit of it – which, by the way, is a pretty healthy way to look at life. We know who is in first place … and did you see where the Tigers would rank if they were in the East Division instead of the Central?