Tuesday night I was at Comerica Park for the Tigers game.  For most of the evening, things did not look good for the home team. Zack Greinke, the White Sox pitcher, shut us out with just four hits over the first seven innings.  The Sox were ahead 3-0 when Torkelson (23) led off the bottom of the eighth with a walk.  Two batters later the bases were loaded.  Riley Greene’s (23) infield single scored a run and kept the bases full.  Then, with two out, Harold Castro (28) singled to left field and the game was tied.  “Hitting Harold” then won the game in similar fashion in the 10th.  The last place Tigers have now won four in a row, and seven out of the last ten.
It may be too little, too late, but I like their spirit.  Many of the young players are stepping up – giving us a glimpse of what the future may hold.  With my eyes on that future, I have set aside my Kaline jersey (at least for a while) and am boldly wearing Greene across my back.
This month STL has nine new individuals who are stepping up to assist with worship on Sunday mornings as either communion servers or sanctuary captains.  Their ages range from the early 50’s to late teens, with the average age being 37.  I am not sure which is more exciting for me, this youth movement, or the one A. J. Hinch is managing.  What really matters in each story is that people are stepping up – because this is something our world needs RIGHT NOW!
Under the heading of “Marks of a True Christian”, Paul’s letter to the Romans urges all followers of Jesus to join one another in stepping up with these words. “Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in the spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12.9-14) I read these words and I think, “What a wonderful world this would be if everyone stepped up like this!”
And then I realize that the only way this will ever be possible is if I step up in this way … and then encourage others to do the same.  I am sure you have all heard “The Tale of the Starfish.”  It goes like this: “A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm.  When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean.  People watched with amusement.  She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, ‘Little girl, why are you doing this?  Look at this beach!  You can’t save all these starfish.  You can’t begin to make a difference!’  The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated.  But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean.  Then she looked up at the man and replied, ‘Well, I made a difference for that one!’” (The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eisley)
This is what stepping up is all about.  Individuals doing little things – in spite of opposition or adversity – that make a difference, even if it is slight.  Both of Castor’s hits came with two outs and two strikes.  The game-winning hit came off a pitch that was nearly in the dirt.  The little girl was not focused upon the thousands scattered far and wide.  She picked up the starfish under her feet.  What are your plans for stepping up this week?
I know my illustrations thus far have been all young people.  There is a message to this.  I believe the emerging generations are chomping at the bit to step up and make a difference in our world.  The rest of us just need to give them the opportunity … and perhaps a little encouragement.  But this is not just for the young.  During the 24 hours surrounding the sending of this epistle I am meeting with about 25 retired pastors who are trained to step up with congregations going through transition.  The stories I am hearing are another assurance that God has future plans for our churches.  So, again I ask, what are your plans for stepping up this week?
Romans 12 provides at least three suggestions“Let your love be genuine … be constant in prayer … contribute to the needs of the saints.”  I am sure you can find more.  Is there someone you know who is feeling unloved – how might you step up to them with genuine love?  Do you have a friend or relative who is being terrorized by Hurricane Ian – how might you provide them with comfort through your constant prayers?  Have you considered how church budgets are struggling during this time of inflation – what is your strategy for contributing to the needs of the saints?  Or, flipping the coin around, if you identify with one of these needs, what saint might you step up to and let your needs be known?
The night after Harold Castro – who by the way is batting .450 with the bases loaded – was the hero, he did not get into the game until he pinch ran for Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning.  At different times we all step up with different roles.  After Harold was stranded on first and returned to the dugout, the Tigers held on to their lead and won the game.  Did I mention that the Tigers only 2 runs came on a home run by that old man for whom Castro ran?  If God can be so at work stepping up through so many different people, why would we ever be anything but encouraged when thinking about what tomorrow will bring?

Stepping Up