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FAITH AND VALUES: Whose approval counts for you

October 7, 2018

Maybe you know the story about a famous American League baseball umpire of the 1930s and the 1940s. His name was Bill Clem. He was known as having one of the loudest voices in the entire league. He could be heard without a microphone all over ball parks. One day he was umpiring a game in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The score was 2-2, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Cleveland versus New York. The Yankees were at bat with two men out.

Frankie Crosetti, the potential winning run, was at second base. Gil McDougald, the batter, sliced a single to center field. The Cleveland Indian center fielder came in and fielded the ball as Frankie Crosetti rounded third base and was digging toward home. The Cleveland Indians center fielder, as fast as he could, threw the ball to home plate. The Cleveland Indians catcher caught the ball and tagged Frankie Crosetti as he crossed the plate.

All over Yankee Stadium Indians fans yelled out, “He’s out!” Yankee fans yelled out, “He’s safe!” The umpire, Bill Klem, took off his mask and looked around at everyone all over the stadium and said, “He ain’t nothing until I say so!”

See, it really doesn’t matter what the manager thinks; it really doesn’t matter what all the fans think. Everybody can be excited, but there’s only one voice that matters; and that is the voice of the umpire.

God loves us. I wish everyone had grown up in a home where they’d internalized the love of a parent, but I know that did not happen. But the good news of our faith is that only Almighty God’s opinion of us matters. God loves us as if we were the only person on the face of the earth.

A man was driving an automobile and he was blinded by the snow. He couldn’t drive very fast because the snow was coming down so furiously that he could hardly see the road in front of him. All he could see was the lights on a truck in front of him and he used those lights to guide him. He was so blinded by the snow that he had no choice but to follow the lights of the truck.

As he followed, he noticed that the truck driver was taking a rather circuitous route. He was turning and twisting, twisting and turning until finally the truck driver stopped. He went back and tapped on the man’s window. The man rolled down the window and the truck driver said, “Listen, buddy, I’m finished sweeping the mall parking lot now. If you want the road, it’s over there.”

First: If God is to be the umpire in our life, if God’s word is the most important word in our life, then we must first remember to stay close to Jesus Christ. For as he said, “I am the way.” Oswald Chambers said, “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows the one who is leading.” Are you staying close to Jesus Christ?

One of the brashest assumptions of our culture is that we have all the power and we can decide whether or not to have God in our life. The truth is, we’re here because God made us! We can think because God gave us a mind. We can touch because God gave us touch. We can feel because God gave us feelings. Somehow in the brashness and egotism of our society, we’ve forgotten all of that.

God begins to make sense when we realize that God is the way. Are we staying close to Jesus Christ? He is not only the way, but he is the truth. God’s opinion is the only opinion that matters. Do you remember what Jesus Christ said in the garden of Gethsemane? His prayer was that this cup, meaning the crucifixion, would pass away from him, but then He said, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

In other words, Jesus Christ didn’t even do his own will. He came to do the will of God. The key to living is remembering that there is one who is omnipotent and that, although God may not do all the things that Garrison Keilor suggested in that little note, He’s got the power to do what God wants to do. God wants to be the umpire in our life. Remember that Jesus Christ is the way. Are you staying close to him?

Sometimes, I honestly believe that we’ve forgotten the cost of discipleship. Following Jesus Christ is not an easy road, it is a hard road. The radical gospel of Jesus Christ means that we remember that there are many people, not only in this country, but in countries all over the world, who are very, very poor. It is our responsibility to care for them.

This is not optional. God says that our responsibility is to serve the poor and to invest our finances and our time in ministry.

I sometimes worry that we’ve forgotten the cost of discipleship. We’ve forgotten that the way of Jesus is a tough way. So often we want fulfillment, and we don’t want denial. So the question of the message is, “Is there room in our life for the cross? Is there room in our lives for sacrifice? Is there room in our life for servanthood?

Do you know the great story of Rodin the sculptor, whose most famous sculpture was “The Thinker.” One day Rodin was traveling, and he saw a crucifix that had been discarded in a garbage heap. He and fellow travelers looked with interest at the crucifix.

They saw that it needed a little work, but they also saw that it had enormous potential and could be beautiful again. So they carried it to Rodin’s home. It wasn’t easy, but when they carried it there, they realized the cross was too big for the house. So Rodin had to make a decision: would he discard the cross or would he adjust his home to the cross? He decided to knock out the walls and raise the roof and he made room for the cross.

To follow Jesus is to make room in our house, in our lives, for the cross. Following Jesus – the way, the truth and the life – is to say that we play to an audience of one. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. What matters is what God thinks and calls us to do.

By the way, you know, Frankie Crosetti, who slid across home plate – he was safe! Not because the Yankee fans said so or because the manager said so or because the announcer said so. He was safe because in the opinion of the umpire, he was safe. Tell me, who is the umpire of your life?

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