Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Musing about Ryan Braun

Yesterday, Major League Baseball handed down a 65 game suspension to Ryan Braun, effectively ending this year of Baseball for him, and for the Brewers and their fans.  I don't know Ryan Braun in any personal way.  I am a casual baseball fan, not an avid fanatic.  I watch Brewer's baseball 5-10 times a year, and it's been 2 years since I've gone to a game.  Part of the reason for not going to games is the cost, and part of it is that I'm not the kind of person who loves to be anywhere where there are 40,000 people.

That being said, my friends and family know that I am two things (among a few others):
1.  I am a Sports fan in general, with my great love cast to football.  But I love sports...basketball, hockey, soccer (sorry my English friends), and yes Baseball.  I pay attention to standings, watch for major stories... I watch Mike and Mike almost everyday for the latest news.  SO, put me down as a lover of all things sports.

2.  I am a Christian.  A follower of Jesus, and even though I am well aware that I "miss the mark" in so many ways; I take seriously the call to follow Him...and His ways.  Being moral, acting with Christ's character of honesty, love, truth, faith, hope, self-control, are all part of what it means to have Integrity...to be legitimate when it comes to sharing who Jesus is to others, and why I strive to be a disciple of his.

I love many other things besides sports, but this particular musing has to do with Sports and Ryan Braun's suspension.  I was not shocked by the suspension, it has long been coming, and anyone and everyone who follows sports in general knew he was going to be suspended.  The evidence was incontrovertible and he had been caught.  Yet, he is from My team...and that made it hurt a bit more.  I felt saddened, and angry.  Embarrassed and Disgusted.
I am saddened that he did not just confess to it when it first occurred.  I am angry that he didn't confess to it when it first occurred.  Now he joins a long list of former baseball players people genuinely question whether or not they have any legitimacy at all in what they have accomplished.  I left Baseball (emotionally - that is with any desire to follow it closely) after Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa broke the home run record and it was discovered they were "juiced" with human growth hormones.  I don't have time for professional wrestling because its not a contest, but a show, and its rigged, and I hate being duped by anyone.  I was disgusted by Ryan's response to the suspension...no mention of the lies, the cover-up, the willingness to use someone else as a scapegoat to escape his own responsibilities.  Why cover it up.  As a Christian, we have this obligation - "Confess your sins...ask for forgiveness...seek to be reconciled..."
I am equally disgusted by the Brewer's response... "We're glad Ryan is taking this bold step."  What bold step?  They have a guy who brings people to the stadium and they want their cash cow back.
Speak the truth...someone please.

Is it the money?  Sure it is!
That leads me to another question:  Do you throw away your values, honesty, integrity because of the dollars? I remember the story of a man who asked a preacher if he would sleep with a woman for $1000.  He said in a rather righteous way - "Absolutely not".  The man then told him he was a billionaire and he would give him $1 Million dollars if he would sleep with his wife (he wanted an excuse for divorce).  The preacher didn't respond...he didn't say "No", he didn't say anything... he was thinking.  And so the man looked at him and said, "So it's not about the values, it's negotiating the price!"

Yes, I'm sad and angry...but I end this with some questions to think about.  Is it just Ryan Braun we're focusing in on?  Well, today, Yes...but there will be more to follow.  The pull of the big bucks is so tempting that the apple on that tree is too tempting to let go.
And...Jesus said, "Whoever among you is not guilty of sin, cast the first stone."
There are lots of people who I heard today express their righteous indignation.  Yet they can throw their stones without asking if they have a moral high ground.  Let me ask:

  • Money doesn't enter into my decisions when it comes to truth, honesty and integrity?
  • I wouldn't say a lie to someone when asked to do something, or come to something, just because I don't want to say the truth?
  • I'll speak the truth and confess my sins to those I need to rather than hiding and pretending that if no one finds out no one is hurt.

We live in a society of people who have learned that from their teachers...in colleges and universities...that their is no truth, that truth is relative, and those who claim to have the truth are narrow bigots.
We live in a society where politicians can speak the political speak and never tell the truth to the citizens who elected them - because they value their power and money more than their integrity.

OK...time to get off my moral high horse.

Maybe they won't forgive you, but I will.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 12 - Going Home

We're headed off to the airport in a little while. If all goes well we'll be back home by tonight - late - but I'd rather be home.

I mentioned all of the various elements, people and places that were involved in the Reformation tour. One thing I didn't mention was the people we went with.

Of the many things you can get out of a tour like this, one of the more lasting ones is new friends. This tour had some amazing people on it who came because they loved the Reformers, and want to see the church reclaim its legacy of being a Reformed Church. Linda and I had some great conversations over meals, in the bus, while touring, listening, looking at the sites and places.

A real deep appreciation was there, by all, for Doug and Cheryl Bond. Doug is a high school teacher who has been taking people on tours since 1996, and unless one either goes on a tour and watches his work, or has been on his side as an organizer and leader (I have been), you cannot understand the amount of work that goes in to arranging, directing, leading, and sometimes worrying about all that is going on.

We had to deal with a quite a bit of sickness that spread on our bus over the 11 days. Like an airplane cabin, we all tended to share the same air over and over again, and pretty soon - day by day - someone new would come down with a bug. I did. Doug and Cheryl made sure that people who needed some medicine got it, and we made adjustments to the schedule to accommodate the needs. This is the part of the tour one does not schedule - it just needs to be dealt with.

Linda and I met some great people...to give lists of names would run the risk of forgetting someone, so I'll just say "Thanks" to all of the folk who shared the journey with us.
AND, once again.

A Big thanks to Doug and Cheryl Bond! If you ever get the opportunity to go on one of his tours...jump at it!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Day 11, The Journey continues at Home

The journey to visit the land of the Reformation comes to a close today. It's a happy/sad day. We came to Geneva yesterday morning. The ride along the Swiss valleys was beautiful. We worshipped with a English speaking Scots Presbyterian Church in the chapel next door to the great Cathedral.

I genuinely missed worshipping back home yesterday. It's great to worship with people, but when you know them personally it makes such a difference.
This Scottish church of believers welcomed us in and gave us a fellowship meal after - a nice hospitality of believers to believers. Not unlike the stream of strangers that came to Geneva in the era of John Calvin's leadership in the mid 16th century.

Geneva is a beautiful city. Our last place on this journey is significant because it was in Geneva that John Calvin came to lead the full character of the Reformation - the Spiritual Worship and Spiritual living of the people of God. When the Reformation began to spread in Europe, there was backlash among Catholic countries to those who accepted the doctrines of Grace. Persecution broke out in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Holland, as well as England and parts of Germany. Refugees - whole families - fled the persecution and many of them streamed into Geneva. The church we worshipped in yesterday was a church for refugees, and a group of Scottish Presbyterians who would have first met there under the leadership of John Knox still worship there today.

Geneva became a melting pot of Reformation followers, and the affect of people coming to a place who sought to live through the Gospel - by Grace through Faith - had a profound affect upon everything. Geneva over time was reformed!
Gone was poverty (there were no beggars in the streets of Geneva while Calvin was here because the poor were brought in to places of shelter and fed).
Gone was unemployment.
Education was for all, and despite what I've heard from secularists and even some who believe -
Women were given a status unheard of in Europe at the time.

None of the good occurred because people were forced into submission. The modernists who hate Christianity and despise the fruit of the Gospel have written negatively about Calvin without ever analyzing the fruit of what occurred in his leadership time.

Even in Calvin's day, John Calvin was not liked by all in Geneva. Those who opposed him were not burnt at the stake or driven out of the city. Calvin cared about the Gospel, not his own personal reputation.

John Calvin spent his life in Geneva - he also died here. No one knows where he is buried because like Moses he did not want a shrine to his dead body, and so Calvin is buried in some unmarked grave in Geneva.

What a Journey these last few days has been. The journey of the Reformation was a story...
> The early attempts at Reform by men like Savanarola, Jan Hus, John Wyclif and the early martyrs who paid with their lives because of their unwillingness to give up the Gospel of Grace. (Remember Place Maubert)
> We saw the Reforms that began with Martin Luther - the German pastor and theologian who would not back down from Papal threats of excommunication and bullying, even desiring to kill him because he preached a Gospel of Grace.
> We visited the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, who lead the Cantons to embrace the Gospel of Grace and lost his life fighting to maintain that.
> We started early in Calvin's life, at his birthplace, then his education in Paris, and then the early days of leading in Strasbourg; but we end in Geneva, where his leadership brought the Reformation solidly on Europe's ground.

Yesterday, as our journey came to an end, we visited the Reformation wall...a picture that speaks a thousand words:

There they stand - a Mount Rushmore of the Genevan Reformation. But more than that. The sign in Latin from one of the wall to the other that in English reads, "AFTER THE DARKNESS LIGHT".

Next to the Reformers of Geneva stands two further depictions. It's difficult to capture the etchings on camera, so let me tell you what they say. The first is an etching in the wall of a Mayflower person - maybe John Bradford. It has next to it the words of the Mayflower Compact. The Mayflower Compact was a group of Reformed believers who sought to establish a place for the heralding of the Gospel - America.

Right next to that is a etching of our Declaration of Independence. This is Switzerland, but even here those who wanted to commemorate the fruit of the Reformation recognize that America came into being because of those who sought to live out the Gospel of Grace in a land free of prejudice and persecution.

My journey in the Reformation - our journey - is not over with. The Church still needs the message of Grace through Faith...God sovereignly working His will in a creation that is Fallen through Sin, separated from the goodness of God, and separated from each other by that Sin. We will not bring about a world of goodness and Justice, that alone is God's to do. Our task is to simply live for the Grace and Mercy of God, trusting in His working in us to do all things for our good and his glory.

Glad you could read along with me in this trip - wished you were along also.