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Man Down

I cannot recall seeing anything like it before, and I hope I never see it again. Miguel Cabrera, on a one strike pitch, swings and misses, and then walks off the field. He was out ... not on the scoreboard, but out of the game ... and out for the season. His “scoreboard out” would be counted one pitch later as Miguel was down in the clubhouse.

Cabrera, who played his first 12 seasons in the majors with zero time on the disabled list, had ruptured a tendon in his biceps. After playing in only 39 games in his fifteenth season, his 2018 campaign was over. You could hear the message “Man Down” echoing through Detroit.

As depressing as this is for Tiger baseball fans, I believe a couple men, as they walked away from Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago, were more depressed. With dejection on their faces, they shuffled their feet through the dust as they told a stranger about "Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests 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." (Luke 24.19-21) For them, all was lost, not just for a baseball season, but all of their hopes and dreams for the future ... crushed ... crucified ... buried ... gone.

I expect you know the end of the story. The stranger was really no stranger at all. It was Jesus - more alive than they had ever seen him before. When this reality struck them, "They said to each other, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?' And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, 'The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared!" (Luke 24.31-34)

The story does not end here! Luke goes on to tell us "As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, 'Peace to you!' But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see." (Luke 24.36-39)

And, ever since then, we - God's people - have been Easter People. The One who came down (from heaven to earth, from True God to true man) ... the man who was down (in the depths of hell, in the darkness of death) ... that man could not be kept down. As Herb Brokering writes, "Jesus is risen and we shall arise: Give God the glory! Alleluia!" (LSB 474)

Now, this may not mean much for how the rest of the Tigers' season will go, but it does have the power to transform every season of our lives on earth ... and more! We are Easter People! The man who went down for us is risen, and we shall arise ... every time we stumble and fall ... every time we get pushed down or defeated ... from the ashes of every broken dream and broken heart. "Weeping be gone; Sorrow be silent" Death put asunder, and Easter is bright. Cherubim sing: 'O grave, be open!' Clothe us in wonder, adorn us in light. Jesus is risen and we shall arise: Give God the glory! Alleluia!" (LSB 474, v. 4)

The Tigers, by the way, in the first game after Cabrera went down, gave up 2 runs in the first inning before getting anyone out ... and then allowed only one more hit for the rest of the game. Down 2-1 with two out in the eighth, they scored four runs and won 5-2. Maybe there is hope there, too.

Man down. Mankind up ... now and for all of eternity. "Jesus is risen and we shall arise: Give God the glory! Alleluia!"

Poor, Poor Me

On a recent weekend night, Monica and I were at a wedding reception when it suddenly hit me. The wedding had started with all of the ‘traditional’ steps, and we were in the phase after dinner where the dancing had just begun. The bride and groom danced together, and then the groom escorted his new wife over to her father. It was the “father-daughter” dance that got to me. My emotions swelled as I realized, in spite of all the weddings I have been involved in - in so many different and special ways - being a father of two sons (whom I love and treasure greatly), I will never experience the joy of dancing with my daughter at her wedding. About halfway through the song I got my emotions in check (the tears never escaped my eyes), took a sip of Champaign, and settled in to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Here I am, 65 years old, supposedly mature in my faith, blessed way beyond measure and merit, yet feeling sorry for myself. “I want it all,” I heard myself saying. Poor, poor me!

It was that same weekend that we received word that a pastor friend of ours had been killed in an automobile accident. While driving to an appointment on Wednesday morning, he was broadsided by someone running a stop sign. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Then Friday night his youngest son gave a valedictory address at his high school graduation. This coming August our friend would have performed the wedding ceremony of his oldest daughter ... and, I assume, later that evening would have participated in the “father-daughter” dance. Our friend was only 57. On Monday evening as we spoke with his widow and met their three children I thought to myself, “Poor, poor me.”

Poor me for never being satisfied. Poor me for complaining. Poor me for focusing upon the little I lack instead of the multitude of underserved blessings that come my way day after day. Poor me for being so narcissistic.

"All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind. ... Yet Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we all are the work of your hands." (Isaiah 64.6, 8) Yes, for some reason, God doesn’t give up on us. He continues to love us and forgive us, and work at molding us into the beautiful people he envisions us all to be ... to the point that our cup continually overflows. Instead of holding our egocentric hearts and arrogant attitudes against us, he holds us close to his heart and assures us, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13.5)

Poor, poor me? No way! "I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied ... And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Philippians 4.18-19) Our story-lines may be different, but the theme of our stories is all the same: Poor, poor are we when we focus upon what we have not ... and rich beyond measure we become as the spirit opens our eyes to see the grace, mercy and generosity of our God.

"For this reason, my friends, I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God's love, and to know Christ's love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3.16-19) ... to the point that none of us, ever again, finds ourselves saying, "Poor, poor me!"

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