The Tigers looked dead in their opener … and I’m not just talking about the first game, but the entire series.  Many were lamenting – perhaps myself included – that this year was going to be worse than the previous, even though those three games covered only the first 1.7% of the season.  They looked like the same old, lame kittens … striking out way too often, sloppy in the field, with pitchers hesitant to throw meaningful strikes.  I think Tampa Bay outscored them by something like 20 runs over the three games, and the Tigers never had a lead.  Talk about a dead opening!
And then they arrived in Houston, to play the next three games against last year’s World Series champions.  If they had been already killed in the frying pan, was there any hope as they stepped into the fire?  But Monday’s game was different.  Their plate discipline, though not perfect, was much better … the same was true for their pitching … and their play in the field.  One of the “newbies” had a great play in the field and four hits – including the game winning homerun in the 11th inning.  And then on Tuesday night they played even better, winning 6-3.  They had already won the series as they came to the field yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately, the Astros got all the key hits on Wednesday to prevent the sweep.
I wonder what happened on that “travel time” between Sunday afternoon and Monday night?  A quick recap of the week has it starting with lots of pomp and excitement as the preseason ended.  Then came the dead opener.  Then the “travel time”.  Now look where we are!  And what a perfect week for this sequence to occur!
Holy week begins with Palm Sunday … a day with lots of pomp and excitement as our Lord’s “pre-passion” season ends.  And what does Good Friday give us … talk about a “dead opener” to the weekend!  How did the followers of Jesus who witnessed the crucifixion react?  “It’s all over,” they cried.  “(He was) a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and our chief priest and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” they lamented (Luke 24.19-20).  I don’t know about you, but this summarizes many Tiger fan attitudes after the first 1.7% of the season (and their dead opener).
Do you ever wonder what happened on that day between Good Friday and Easter?  The Apostles Creed tells us that it was “travel time” for Jesus as it states that he was “crucified, dead, and buried.  He descended into hell and rose again on the third day.”  His dead body traveled to the tomb, but our living and victorious Lord having been “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, … went and proclaimed to the spirits in (hell’s) prison.” (1 Peter 3.18-19) And then the Holy Week storyline takes an even more dramatic turn than the Tigers’ season after their ‘travel time.”
Easter, in other words, makes all the difference in the world.  Because Christ is risen, all of our “dead openers” are overcome.  We have new hope … new joy.  And our “life-game” execution, though not perfect, is dramatically transformed.
I recently was in a small group discussion of Psalm 143.  I find the emotional/spiritual journey described there to be the same scenario.  It starts with David lamenting his “dead opener” – “The enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground.” (Verse 3) As he laments he states, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” (Verse 5) … Do you remember any of those “good old days”?  Like many of us after the Tampa Bay series, David states, “My spirit fails!  Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.” (Verse 7)  As he then steps into his “travel time” he writes, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Make me know the way I should go.” (Verse 8)  Whatever happened on the plane to Houston revealed itself on the diamond Monday (not morning, but) evening.  And you and I certainly hear on Easter morning of our Lord’s steadfast love for us.
Thus, no matter how many “dead openers” we experience in our lives, we are assured that “in Christ’s steadfast love he will cut off our enemies and he will destroy all the adversaries of our souls, for we are his servants.” (Verse 12)  And,  because of this, our lives are constantly being filled by Jesus with hope and joy as he transforms our “life-game” execution.  The three illustrations above translate into one sure promise for us all.
This world is constantly throwing scary horrors into our lives … shootings, hate, greed, wars, family issues, our own inadequacies and failures, … you name it.  The list of “dead openers” we experience throughout our earthly journey appears endless, and severely challenges our hope and joy.  Were it not for the closing promise found in the Apostles Creed – “I believe in … the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting,” we would “be like those who go down to the pit” and never come out.  .  However, with this promise we know that the “dead openers” do have an ending, and that when they do come to and end, our living Savior will call us each of us by name as he raises us up to eternal life with him.
And, thanks be to God, throughout the entirety of our “travel time” on this earth, we repeatedly hear his Easter morning message.  While we may be crying, “Houston, we have a problem”, he assures us that – in spite of our imperfect play – ours is “the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15.57) Our life-game is changed.  Our hope and joy are renewed.  We not only realize that the season is not over, but (in Christ) we are eternal champions.
I have the feeling that A.J. had a special message to his team during the plane ride to Houston.  The team listened, and his words produced the change in play … just as I have (more than) a feeling that, as we listen to the Word of our Lord ever alive in Holy Scripture, even more significant changes will take place within us … and that eventually all those “dead openers” will be gone.

Dead Opener