Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Best You Can Be

Last night, Jonathan Sanchez, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants threw a no-hitter. For me, nothing beats the thrill of a no-hitter in sports. The tension in the ninth inning of a no-hitter can't be paralleled in any other sport. Will he do it? Will the batter spoil the no-hitter at the last minute? I can remember a few games where the pitcher had a no-hitter going into the ninth, with two down only to have it spoiled by a fluke single or a home run. And I'm sure we've all seen how a pitcher can pitch a no-hitter and still lose the game.

No-hitters are tough. There are so many variables. And, despite the fact it's the pitcher who gets the glory, it takes a team. Let's start with the catcher. He's the field general. He's the one calling the pitches or taking direction from the bench. He's the one that goes out to the mound to calm down a pitcher when he starts getting wild or when an error is made. So give credit to the catcher as well.
And what about the coaching? Sanchez was having trouble this year. He was blowing games, getting hit all over the place. He had potential, but wasn't living up to that potential. So Dave Rigetti took him out of the rotation and banished him to the bull pen. Talks of trade rumors filled the air. But Rags had a job to do. His job was to get inside of Jonathan's head, correct his mechanics and get him back on the field. And he did his job. Among other things, he had Sanchez slow down his lower body, bring his leg in higher and closer to his body.
So when Randy Johnson went on the disabled list for an injury, Sanchez was inserted back into the rotation.
And as we can see it paid off.

But what about those guys behind him? Did they have any part in the game? Of course! They are the ones who made the great stops, timely throws and for once, batted in the runs. And who can forget that ninth inning when Edgar Renteria made that great throw from deep in the hole to put out Luis Rodriguez. And how about that great catch in Center by Aaron Rowland to steal a home run or an extra base hit from Edgar Gonzales?
You see, for a no-hitter to happen, it doesn't all depend on the pitcher. It is a team effort. Oh..did I mention strategy? A game plan. Credit the manager, Bruce Bochy. He put all the pieces into play.

So what? So, it's just a game. But you know. That's life as well. And that's what being a follower of Christ is all about too. O.K....stay with me. Don't go away. (at least the one or two of you that stumble over my blog in the dead of night by accident.)

How many Christians do you know who say, I don't need the church. I can worship Jesus on my own anywhere. I don't need to depend on a gathering of hypocrites to worship God. I don't need (you fill in the blank).
Or do you? You see, becoming all we can be in Christ is not just a personal relationship with God. It's not just Jesus and Me. Or the Father and me. Or, to put it in other terms I've seen, papa and me.

Are you becoming all you were created to be? Are you the best You possible? God made each one of us for a purpose. He made all of us as individuals with individual talents, gifts and features. We are all different and individual. There is no one else like you. But, in Christ, we become something else. We become a member of a living, breathing organism called, the Body of Christ. The Church. Yes, Christ is our head. He works in us to conform us to himself. He wants to establish a relationship of love with himself. But, he's called us to a Body as well.

For my hand to be the best hand possible, it depends on the arm, blood vessels, blood, heart, muscles, brain. All are interrelated. The brain sends out signals to direct the hand to pick up a glass. The hand doesn't do the moving. It's the arm that brings that hand over to the glass, at the direction of the brain. But the hand doesn't pick up the glass. The fingers must do their part. They must embrace the glass. But the nerves must do their part. If the glass is hot, the nerves immediately transmit the message back up through the fingers, the hand the arm and ultimately, the brain. The brain immediately sends out the message, pull back!!

tThat's just a simplified version of what happens in a body. The same thing happens in the Body of Christ. If one part of the body is hurting, it affects the entire body. Just stub your toe sometime in the middle of the night and tell me the whole body doesn't react. I've got a couple of odd shaped toes that remind me daily of what happened that night.

For us to become all we can be, we need the manager, Christ, to give us the game plan. He did that with his life and the scriptures that have come down to us. We need the pitching coach, a spiritual director, using the old term. Someone who can hold us accountable. How many of us have someone we can go to for support or someone we respect who can come running out to us on the mound to calm us down or give some needed instruction? I think this is one of the greatest needs in the church. It's one that is largely ignored and forgotten. Find someone you trust to hold you accountable and who will help you become a better Christian. Don't spend time with those who complain and are negative all the time. Develop a relationship with an honest, positive friend who will stand with you through thick and thin.

We need those players in our lives who can save us at the last minute. Who will lift our spirits when we are down or tired and weak. A healthy body of believers such as a small group can be those team members who will support you and help you become all you can be in Christ. Do you belong to a small group like that? This is what I think has made our church, Menlo Park Presbyterian, build a reputation as a church of love. A huge number of our members are in small groups that match various interests and needs.

So you see, even baseball can be a lesson for us. We need each other to become all we can be. But I have one more point. For there to be a no-hitter, it takes the pitcher being on his game. The pitcher takes all his resources given to him, his physical strength, gifts, abilities, along with his support team and must pitch with the goal in mind of putting out that next batter. And in the Christian life, in order for the body to win; in order for the Church of Christ to become all it can me; it requires us to embrace the church, the body, reach out to team members, love them, (I didn't say much about team camaraderie) in order to build the body to become all IT can be.

You see, the church is not "Exclusive". Our communion must be inclusive. Our fellowship must be inclusive. All of us are involved in making us more complete in this life. Yes, in heaven, I'm seen as complete. But heaven has come down here. We are to live out the kingdom on this earth. And that involves each other. God is only uplifted by both adoration of him and living to serve him through others. May God help us to become all we can be by our relationship with both him and others.

Yeah....maybe not a perfect game, but a no-hitter and a win.

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