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by David Phelps

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

February, 2013

Last month, St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans mourned the passing of “Stan the Man” Musial at the age of 92. Born in Donora, Pennsylvania in 1920, the son of Polish and Czech immigrants, Musial signed with the Cardinals in 1938 and, except for a stint in the US Navy during WWII, spent his entire career with the team, an astounding 22 seasons. In 1940, he married his high school sweetheart Lillian “Lil” Labash, also from Donora, whom he had known since he was 15. They were married until her death in 2012, nearly 72 years. Musial acquired the nickname “Stan the Man” in 1946. He retired in 1963 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. Musial was an All-Star twenty four times, MVP three times, and won three World Series. Over the course of his career, he had 3,630 hits, the fourth best record of all time. In February, 2011, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

In the days following Musial’s death, accolades poured in from countless sports figures. During the tributes, the question arose as to why “Stan the Man” Musial, not merely a great St. Louis Cardinal but one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game, wasn’t more famous. Some suggested that it was because he wasn’t flashy like Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, hadn’t married a movie star like Joe DiMaggio, or hadn’t been involved in scandal like many other players before and since. He had simply been an extraordinary, consistent player and, from most accounts, a good and decent human being.

But some also speculated that he wasn’t more famous simply because he spent his entire career in St. Louis, rather than someplace better known and more respected such as Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles. St. Louis is certainly an under-appreciated city that doesn’t receive nearly the respect it deserves. And as those of us who live in the St. Louis area know, it’s also a city with a serious inferiority complex.

In John’s gospel, we’re told that after Philip met Jesus he went to his brother Nathanael and said, “‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” (John 1:45b ESV). But Nathanael replied, “‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’” (vs. 46b). Philip simply answered, “‘Come and see.’” (vs. 46c). You can almost hear people today asking, “Can anything good come out of St. Louis?” Many people, at least many people who aren’t from St. Louis, might say “No.”

On a personal level, we might ask “Can anything good come out of me?” Frankly, no. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Rom. 7:18 ESV). We’re sinners. Only the indwelling of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God, can make us truly good. We can be kind, generous, successful and even famous but true “goodness” comes from God. Paul told the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20a ESV). Something—someone—good came out of Nazareth because God put something good in it. God can do that for us too.

We don’t know for certain why Nathanael asked the question he did but we can speculate. Vincent’s Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, says that “Contrary to the popular explanation, there is no evidence that Nazareth was worse than other places, . . . It was a proverb, however, that no prophet was to come from Galilee (John 7:52).” Whatever the reason, Philip’s response was simple and straightforward: “‘Come and see.’” This should be our response as well: “Come and see.” See God present in our lives and in our church. See God at work in our community. Nathanael did “come and see” and both he and his brother Philip became Jesus’ disciples. We can make disciples too. We only have to invite them to “Come and see.”

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’” (John 1:43-46 ESV.)

Copyright © 2013 by David Phelps