I like finding clever sayings on church signboards. For example: “Whoever is praying for a white Christmas, please stop, or we’ll soon end up with a white Easter!”
You may know that Minnesota Twins baseball has been a huge part of my life, so it will come as no surprise that the following church-sign message is one of my favorites: Lent is Spring Training; Easter is Opening Day!
Opening Day of baseball season (which, if you asked me, should be a national holiday) is a universal day of celebration in the baseball world. It’s that day when “Hope springs eternal” for every team. It’s a day when fans are so thrilled to have baseball back that we’ll even sit on frozen seats bundled in parkas, long johns, wool socks and scarves in 32-degree temps for 3+ hours! Easter is the day we celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world! It’s a day when folks will stand outside at sunrise in freezing temps playing trumpets, guitars and singing to celebrate the fact that Jesus came back from the dead. A day when “Hope springs eternal” - literally - as Jesus’ resurrection proved He’d won the victory over our greatest enemies: sin, death and Satan.
But Opening Day would never happen without Spring Training, roughly forty days teams use to get in shape for Opening Day. Whoever compared Lent to Spring Training was onto something! Lent is a forty-day time when we prepare for celebrating Jesus’ victory. It’s typically a somber time when we’re reminded of our sinfulness - our tendency to do the opposite of what God’s designed us to do. It makes sense to prepare for Easter by being reminded of our sin. I mean, how can you celebrate a victory over sin unless you first admit that you need someone to save you from it?!
One way we typically “get in shape” during Lent is by repenting - turning away from sin and walking in God’s ways. You may try to get in shape by “giving something up” or by “taking something up.” Whichever you choose, one thing is for sure, you’ll realize just how much sin is like snowstorms: As soon as you shovel out from one, here comes another!
The simple truth is: Just like we need the sun to ultimately do away with the snow, we need The Son to ultimately do away with sin - we can never shovel it away!
About a month ago we took a family vacation. We rented a house and invited our grown kids to come and spend a few days with us in Cooperstown, NY (the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame). This year two of my favorite players from my earliest days as a Twins fan, Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, were being inducted into the Hall of Fame
Violet told someone about our trip and the person responded, “I don’t get it. Seems like idol worship.”
Nope. That person definitely did not “get it!” The trip wasn’t about baseball players or the game. It was about family, making memories and connections.
I love baseball, because it was a connection with my dad - one of the first connections I can remember. That connection started one summer night in 1965 at about 10 o’clock. (This was the year the Twins won their first pennant!) I was five years old. My mom had already gone to bed, and Dad was in the kitchen listening to the ball game on a radio we had that sat on a shelf up high. Mom sent me out to tell Dad it was time to turn the radio off and come to bed. I went out. But before I could open my mouth, Dad said, “C’mere. You gotta hear this!” And he scooped me up and put my ear to the radio. A lifelong connection was made! Baseball was a connection with my dad that endured until he died. To this day, I still much prefer listening to games on the radio over watching them on TV, because that’s what dad did. (If memory serves, what I heard that night was the replay of an important home run by Harmon Killebrew!)
Reflecting on that day, it struck me that the connection was made, not because dad convinced me to like baseball by using statistics or logic or anything else. He simply made an invitation for me to join him in something that he enjoyed. What kid (or grandkid) doesn’t want a parent (or grandparent) to invite them to share in a happy experience!
Then this thought hit me: “That’s just how Jesus did it too!” He made connections with his disciples, not by giving them a lengthy dissertation on why they should follow Him or by reciting proofs that He really was the Messiah. He simply made an invitation, “Follow me,” or “Come and see.”
I guess the lesson is two-fold. First, if you’re a parent or grandparent wanting to make a connection with a child (no matter what age), try giving a simple invitation for them to join you in some activity you enjoy. And second, if you are wanting to connect someone to Jesus, a simple invitation to “Come and see,” could be the best place to start.
Pastor David Dauk