Good morning, I'm the Rev'd Steven Page from St Patrick's Anglican Church. Our devotional thoughts for the radio this month take their illustrations from the world of Sports. Nowadays, professional sports are big business. The players make millions, the teams and the leagues billions.
With so much money at stake, players and owners sometimes argue over how to split the pot of dough, and strikes and lockouts happen. The NBA lost part of last year's basketball season because of such a dispute. The year before, the NFL teams and players almost lost games from a lockout. In 2004-05, there was no Stanley Cup, because of an NHL dispute. Even peaceful baseball has had its issues. The player strike of 1994 ended the best Montreal Expos season ever. Some Expos fans think the strike was a key nail in the Expos' coffin, leading to them moving to Washington, DC.
A century ago, there was a different kind of baseball strike. It involved just 1 team, and just 1 game. On May 15, 1912, Tigers star Ty Cobb, one of the greatest hitters in history, got tired of the heckling from some fans. Cobb climbed into the stands and attacked one of the worst hecklers.
For that awful action, the American League suspended Cobb for 10 days, and fined him, too. His fellow Tigers thought that the punishment was excessive, and they walked out to protest. All the players decided to boycott the May 18th game in Philadelphia, against the Athletics.
But, according to the rules of the league, if Detroit did not play the game, they would forfeit the game. The owners would face a serious fine. And their franchise could be kicked out of the league. To make sure that didn't happen, manager Hughie Jennings invited volunteers to come down from the stands and try out for the team. Those chosen would go to Philly and dress and play the game as Tigers.
Jennings got a number of volunteers who responded to his invitation, and he chose 9 of them. He filled out the rest of his team with retired players and with some of the team's scouts. Off they went to Pennsylvania.
Well, the game was not a good one. The professional ball-players on the Athletics team pounded the makeshift squad of volunteers and retirees. The game finished 24-2 for Philadelphia. Thousands of fans felt so cheated watching the replacements that they demanded that Philadelphia refund their money.
The regular Tigers returned for the next game, probably feeling they had made their point. Ty Cobb rejoined them after his suspension, and baseball continued as normal. Except for those 9 fans who could forever after tell people that they had played for the Detroit Tigers! All because they responded to the try-out invitation. Without that response, they would not have been chosen.
It reminds me of a parable Jesus told in Matthew 22. It was about a king who invited people to the wedding banquet for his son. But everyone had better things to do, none wanted to come. So he threw the doors wide open and invited anyone! And people came, filling the hall. But when the king saw someone hanging out near the buffet tables, not properly dressed, someone more interested in the free food than in the wedding of the prince, the king had him ejected.
The parable can be a bit troubling. But part of its point is that we need to respond to God's invitation. We are invited to join God's team. But that means walking onto the field, in our baseball metaphor. Or dressing up and attending the wedding, not just mooching, in our wedding image. My prayer is that you will respond to God's invitation. God longs to choose you for his team. God wants to put you on one of the many local squads he has in town, called churches. Maybe the Pineridge Rockies? Or the Adventist Angels? the Catholic Cardinals? the United Padres? God is eagerly waiting for you to respond. Will you join one of God's teams today? For the St Patrick's Giants, I'm Steven Page.