About 20 years ago, I worked in the parking lot that is behind the Green Monster at Fenway Park. That means that you get a red t-shirt with STAFF written on the back, and then you help people park their cars in the garage. It doesn’t mean that you get to see any of the game, any visits with the players, any TV time, or free food, or photos with the fans. It doesn’t get you any of the perks of working *inside* the ballpark because there is a giant green monster between you and the outfield.
But what it does get you, is what everyone really wants when they go to a baseball game. Home run balls.
So this is how it would go. Before the game starts, the two teams take batting practice, and the batters get easy pitches to knock around. And they serve a bunch of them as home runs that go over the green monster. Before a game, there can be anywhere from a couple to maybe 8 balls that come over the wall and land in the parking lot. And the parking lot attendants get full pockets!
Now, most of the guys would keep the full pockets and go home with the balls. One man I recently told the story to said that he was thinking about what he could get for all those balls on ebay. But all that just didn’t interest me. I had another idea. I would get the balls at the beginning and put them in my pockets, and then I would wait as the cars kept coming in. I would wait for the right ones. A kid with his parents. Maybe a couple of kids together with their Dad. Sometimes a kid with crutches or a cast. Or a kid with a disability. And then I would take out the official Major League Baseball home run ball from Fenway Park and hand it to the kid, and watch as the needle on the happy meter shot through the roof. I emptied all my pockets every game to do that, to lift the kids up. I never kept a single ball for myself.
In one game that I was working, Mark McGwire hit 2 home runs. The next day, he hit 3. With that last one, he tied the major league record for home runs in two days. So when that last one came over, I heard it hit the ground and set off a car alarm, and I went right after it along with a crew of opportunistic fans and fellow attendants. I dropped on the ground and looked under the car, and there sitting in a little puddle of water, was the ball, and I reached out and grabbed it and hopped back up to a bunch of congratulators filled with mixed feelings. I had THE Fenway Park homerun ball. A minute later, a newspaper reporter came to me to interview me, and the next day in the sports section of the Providence newspaper was a whole article about me and Mark McGwire. When I saw the paper, I immediately threw it away to keep out of atten …. No, that’s not at all what I did – I showed it to all my family and friends within a week! I was famous!
I still have that ball.
Why am I saying all this?
In my time since being touched by God’s mercy, I have given a lot of good things away. A lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of attention, a lot of good words and actions, my expertise and skills, my career. My ear for listening. My home. My parents. My bank account looks empty. And I know people wonder why do all that? What about your retirement and security and money? What about having a wife and kids and a family? A house? Well, I am down in Ecuador, outside the US. And there is a big separation between those two places. I am not getting any of the perks of life that most get in the States. And I continue to give and empty myself of the gifts I have. And you know where I get the motivation?
It comes from that ball that I still have, the homerun ball of homerun balls. I don’t have to worry. I know that, when it is all said and done, God is going to hit THE homerun ball for me. He is going to put my name with His. He is going to lift me up.
Jesus in the Passion is going to show us to the full what He has been doing His whole life: emptying Himself. He is going to give everything away. His patience, His forgiveness, His friends, His mother, His clothes, His back and face to all the abuse, He’s going to give away the last drops of His blood and His very life. Where does He get it? Where does he get the ability to give like that and not worry about what is going to happen to Him, who’s going to provide for Him, where He’s going to end up?
He knows that THE greatest gift is coming, that God is going to send Him THE homerun ball. He’s going to put His name above everyone else’s. His Father is going to lift Him up.
Don’t be afraid to give. Don’t be afraid to give til you’ve emptied yourself. Don’t worry about your future, your retirement, where you’ll be, what type of security you’ll have.
Because the greatest gift is coming. God will send you THE homerun ball. He will put you up in the best spot.
He will lift you up.
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.