I admit it. I love the major league baseball playoffs.
In 1991 a friend called to offer me a ticket to game 3 of the World Series, Braves vs. Twins, the first world series game ever played in Atlanta. Strangely, he had just one ticket. Not a ticket for him and one friend – just one ticket. And amazingly, he offered it to me. Being a casual Braves fan, and a big sports fan, I quickly said yes!
Needless to say, it’s awkward to attend a sporting event alone. I drove to the stadium alone (from Greenville SC), walked in alone, sat down alone and began cheering for the Braves – alone.
A distinguished looking African American man and his son and sat to my left. In front of me sat a young family – Mom and Dad and two children. Next to me sat an elderly couple and behind me sat a group of rowdy noisy teenagers. Two rows behind was the Wachovia Bank Suite. Behind the sliding suite window (which was closed) I saw beautiful people dressed in beautiful clothes. It was clear from facial expressions and harsh glances that the suite guests were not happy to be sitting behind a group of boisterous teenagers.
In the third inning the Braves scored and naturally, I wanted to give a high five to somebody. Anybody. It’s a natural reaction when your team scores. Yet, there I was – alone.
In the sixth inning the Braves came back to tie the score at 2 to 2. In my excitement, I turned and gave a high five to the man to my left and the family in front. As I turned to celebrate with the teenagers behind me I caught site of the people in the Wachovia suite. While they were celebrating, they continued to direct expressions of disgust towards the noisy teens.
By the eighth inning, the Braves were down once again, 4 to 3. They were able to score in dramatic fashion to tie the game. There were enthusiastic high fives all the way around. It was at that moment I realized that I was suddenly beginning to feel a bond with these people. I suddenly felt freed to give a high five to people who were complete strangers just three hours earlier.
And then, it happened. The glass doors of the Wachovia Suite opened and a number of the men came out and sat on the wall. The barrier of separation had been broken.
In the bottom of the 12th, there were two outs with the score tied 4 to 4. David Justice was on second base. Mark Lemke hit a looping single that scored David Justice from second base. I hugged the man next to me! I hugged the family in front of me! I hugged the elderly couple to my right. I turned around to hug the teenagers but they were hugging the people in the Wachovia suite!! I will never forget that feeling of joy and unity!
Before the game, I didn’t know anyone else in the stadium. And yet, in three hours we had a tremendous spirit of unity. How? Because we were there with one purpose: to see the Atlanta Braves win game 3 of the 1991 World Series. That was our sole focus. And that intense driving passionate focus gave us a common goal that broke down walls.
Why can’t that game be a picture of the Church? Why can’t we focus on Jesus, rather than the many factors which so easily cause division? Tensions and conflicts can be minimized if our eyes are focused upon Jesus. Walls can be overcome if there is a single focus upon Jesus Christ.