On Friday night, August 14th, the Baltimore Orioles played the Oakland A's at the Coliseum. One of the great benefits of living in the Bay Area is the opportunity to a variety of professional sports. In baseball, there are the A's and Giants. The NFL has the 49ers and Raiders, The NBA has the Golden State Warriors. There is even professional hockey with the San Jose Sharks. Growing up as an Orioles' fan, I have tried to see at least one game each time the O's come to Oakland. The past few years have given Orioles' fans very little to cheer about, but this season is different. Whenever we go to a baseball game, we arrive as soon as the doors open, hoping to get a baseball during batting practice. But this game was different. Thaddeus and I wanted to get some autographs. We had all of our Orioles' baseball card, two baseballs and a sharpie. We made a bee-line to the Orioles dugout so we could catch the players as they came onto the field. We arrived just as Mark Reynolds signed his last few autographs before heading to batting practice. I had his card, but couldn't get close enough to get him to sign it. Then, the Orioles All-Star centerfielder, Adam Jones came over and started signing autographs. We got his autograph on his baseball card this year at Spring training, so I didn't bring his card, but I sure wanted his autograph on one of the baseballs. So I went to where he was signing, but he was moving away from me. I went back to Thaddeus and Leah to wait. He made his way towards us and I rolled him the ball, threw him my sharpie and got his autograph. We were thrilled and it was great to see such an outstanding player take so much time to sign for the fans. Thaddeus and I waited around for the rest of batting practice while Leah went back to her seat. No other players came over to sign and the players were all coming into the dug out to get ready for the game. We hung around just to watch these tremendous athletes. Chris Davis, the Orioles' designated hitter, was coming in from finishing BP with his bat in hand. He didn't look up to the dug out because you could tell he didn't want to sign, but was getting ready for the game. As he got to the dug out, he looked up at Thaddeus and rolled his bat to us! Wow! We didn't just get an autograph, but we got Chris Davis' bat. It was cracked, which is why he gave it away. But it had the pine tar and the white stains from hitting balls were on the barrel. The O's fans around us wanted pictures of Thaddeus holding the bat and they were all excited for him. Later in the game, Chris Davis even hit a home run to deep center. We had a blast at the game, even though the O's lost and we left with an autographed ball and a major leaguer's bat.
The word used for this like the ball and bat is memorabilia. Some people collect these things so they can sell them on E-bay and make lots of money. Memorabilia collecting today is big business and many people make their living from the collection and sale of memorabilia. I can assure you that you will not see Adam Jones' autographed baseball nor Chris Davis' bat on E-bay. They have become valued treasures to a young man who loves the game of baseball. Chris Davis will never know how much joy he brought a father and son who shared a cool moment together. We will talk about that one evening for the rest of our lives because it was a classic evening: Great game, great friends, ball park food and a fire works show afterwards. The memory of that evening will last a looooong time for us.
It's easy to get caught up in a moment with a celebrity, someone you see on TV. They seem larger than life and seem so important to us. Yet, Jesus turns this thought process upside down in Matthew 25. He tells the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. He affirms the sheep who have cared for the "least of these" because they have actually touched Jesus. Jesus says that our value should be, not in those the world sees as celebrities, but in those the world sees as outcasts. Jesus elevates the servant who serves in humility. In the church, we often idealize those who are in the spotlight: The one who preaches, the one who sings, the one who plays in the praise band, the one who has the incredible testimony, the one who teachers or anyone who is on the podium. Certainly, they should set the example of humble servants for us. But in Matthew 25, Jesus emphasizes those who help anyone who is hurting without looking for reward. They see a need and reach out to meet a need. They do it because they love Jesus, not because they love the accolades.
This past Sunday evening, we had our Sunday Evening Ministries Kick-Off. Another church allowed us to use their huge, inflatable obstacle course for this event. The kids and youth of our church often serve in our outreach events, so we wanted to give them something where they could play and enjoy. But setting up this obstacle course is not an easy task, so I asked a few of our men if they could show up an hour and a half before the event started to get everything set up. That small call for assistance yielded over 15 people coming early: They set up the obstacle course, grilled hot dogs, prepared the drinks, ran errands, set up table and chairs (The reconfigured the tables and chairs when we had more people than anticipated), then put everything away and cleaned the church. No one was complaining or slacking, just jumping in and doing what was needed. I am spoiled as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church because this is how they roll. When a need arises, they willingly jump in and serve without asking anything in return. It is infectious because others who are new to the church see the joy there is in serving and join in.
In Revelation 4:10, the Bible tells us that the elders take off their crowns and lay them before the throne of God. I believe this is the eternal memorabilia the saints collect while on this earth as we serve the least of these in Jesus' name. The jewels in the crowns are these incredible collectibles that only come when we serve in humility and faith. Adam Jones' ball will eventually decompose, as will Chris Davis' bat...but the jewels of service will be the eternal offering we lay at the feet of God Almighty when we give an account of our lives. Would you focus this week on being a humble servant whose only desire is to minister in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus? Focus on memorabilia that will last!