by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

August, 2009

As I write this, St. Louis is preparing to host the 2009 Major League Baseball All Star Game, so I suppose it’s natural that I have baseball on my mind. One evening recently I was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt when a stranger approached me. The man asked me if I were a Cardinals fan. I confessed that I wasn’t much of a fan and told him I had received the shirt as a premium from the American Red Cross after giving blood. Indeed, anyone who knows me even moderately well is aware that I’m not a sports fan. But this was a stranger.

The man told me that he had just moved to St. Louis from Mississippi, a state which has no major league sports teams. He went on to say that while the nearest major team had been the New Orleans Saints, he wasn’t a fan; despite the distance involved, he had always been a Dodgers fan. His father, for whatever reason, had been a Dodgers fan and he had become one as well. The man closed by saying that he had never been to a major league baseball game but that he was planning to remedy that situation; his newly-adopted home team, the St. Louis Cardinals, was scheduled to play against his beloved Dodgers in Busch Stadium. I wished him well and went on my way. From his father, he had inherited his love for a baseball team that was hundreds of miles away, even though he had never seen them play, except on television. The game will take place in late July and possibly by the time you read this you will know which team won: the newly-adopted home team, the Cardinals, or the lifelong favorites, the Dodgers. (The Cardinals and Dodgers played a four-game series July 27-30 and the Cardinals won all but the last game; I hope the man was able to attend that one.)

Children “inherit” characteristics from their parents. Unless they’re adopted like our brother-in-law, Rob, children generally resemble their parents, although our own almost-seventeen-year-old daughter, Monica, looks more like my wife’s younger sister, her aunt Valerie, than she does either of us. I’m tall like my Dad but I have Mom’s blue eyes instead of Dad’s brown ones. But physical characteristics aren’t the only things we get from our parents. Our brother-in-law, Rob, doesn’t have his adoptive father’s love of golf but he does have the same values. And I use a number of words and expressions I got from my parents, especially Mom.

The disciple Philip asked Jesus, “‘Lord, show us the Father . . .’” (John 14:8b Good News Translation). But Jesus answered him, “‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Why, then, do you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe, Philip, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?’” (vs. 9-10a GNT). If God is in Jesus and Jesus is in his followers, then it should be possible to see the Father in them—in other words, you and me. How do we let others see the Father? What can we do or say?

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenged the people, “‘. . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’” (Matt. 5:16b). He went on to talk about loving your enemies and being perfect (vs. 44b-45a, 48). Strong medicine. Perfection is impossible. Loving your enemies is almost as hard, at least for some of us. But we can get help. Jesus prayed for the disciples, “‘May they be in us, . . . so that the world will believe that you sent me.’” (John 17:21b GNT).

Paul told the Galatians, “God sent his own Son. . . . so that we might become God’s children. To show that you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, ‘Father, my Father.’” (Gal. 4:4b, 5b-6 GNT). Not long ago (June, 2009), I wrote about “spiritual orphans.” These are people who aren’t part of the family of God, who  don’t know what—and who—we know, who are outside of our family. We can invite them in. We can “show [them] the Father,” the one who wants to be their Father, by the way we live. We can show them that God invites everyone to come and be a part of our family.

“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father; that is all we need.’ Jesus answered, ‘For a long time I have been with you all; yet you do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Why, then, do you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe, Philip, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I have spoken to you,’ Jesus said to his disciples, ‘do not come from me. The Father, who remains in me, does his own work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. If not, believe because of the things I do.’” (John 14:8-11 GNT.)

Copyright © 2009 by David Phelps