May 30, 2021 “On Being Jesus”

“On Being Jesus”

John 3:1-17

“God so loved the world that he gave his son to that world, that those who put their confidence in him would not lead a miserable, failing existence, but have eternal life, which is the kind of life God has.” ~ Dallas Willard

“It isn’t sacrifice if you love what you’re doing.” ~ Mia Hamm

For the baseball fans in the crowd today, the name Jim Palmer should sound familiar. In his 19 year career with the Baltimore Orioles, Palmer made quite a name for himself. He was the winningest MLB pitcher in the 1970’s, with 186 wins. He also won 3 Cy Young awards and 4 Gold Gloves during that same decade. His career number of 268 wins is still a Baltimore record. So you get the idea: Jim Palmer was one heck of a pitcher, especially for a right hander. He was also somewhat of a pistol, and even though he was always quick to give his teammates credit when it was due, he didn’t hold back when they fell short. His long standing feud with manager Earl Weaver was legendary. Now Weaver had played in the minor leagues, but never made the cut to major league baseball before becoming a manager. To this fact, Palmer had stated, “The only thing Earl Weaver knows about big-league pitching is that he couldn’t hit it;” also adding that, “Most pitchers are too smart to be managers.”  But in Weaver’s defense, I have to concede that Jim Palmer had constantly nursed one injury after another during his career with the Orioles. Weaver once told the press, “The Chinese tell time by ‘The Year of the Horse’ or “The Year of the Dragon.’ I tell time by ‘The Year of the Back’ and ‘The Year of the Elbow.’ This year it’s ‘The Year of the Ulnar Nerve.’ Someone once asked me if I had any physical incapacities of my own. ‘Sure, I do,’ I said, ‘One big one – Jim Palmer.’”

Now, I know that we did not gather here today to talk about baseball. It is Trinity Sunday, after all. This is the Sunday that kicks off the long season in the Christian calendar called Common Time or Ordinary Time: both of which I find a bit disagreeable. But from now until Advent, we will be focusing on the ministry of Jesus through the gospels of John and Mark, along with a return to our ongoing visits to the prophets and letters of Paul and James, and the book of Hebrews. But on this day – Trinity Sunday – let’s have a look at the big picture before we dive into the boatload of scripture in the months ahead.

The Trinity – everybody knows what that is, right? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Easy. But everybody also knows that whenever we get into an in depth conversation of God in 3 persons, things can get dicey. John Wesley tells us, “Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man who can comprehend the Triune God.” Yet, we keep trying. We want to understand – to comprehend the height and the depth of this, the One who is eternal; the creator of all that is. But like Nicodemus, we almost always find ourselves muttering the words, “How can this be?” And like Nicodemus, the answer – if we get one – brings even more questions. So let’s look at this key scripture again, shall we, and hopefully we might begin to truly comprehend the Triune God. (Jn 3:3) 3 Jesus answered, “I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.”

“How can a grown man be born again?” Nicodemus asked. “He certainly cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time!”                                       

 “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit. So what happens when we are born? Everything happens, right? When we are born, we are a clean slate, a blank page, an empty vessel. Everything is brand new because, well…we don’t know much of anything. It’s all brand new. Nicodemus was a good man, despite the fact that he was a Pharisee. And the fact that he took the chance talking to Jesus tells us that he was looking – he was looking for a rebirth. It was that important. It was that pressing. We don’t know if Nicodemus walked away from his conversation with Christ renewed, reborn, or born from above. We do know, however, that he showed up twice more in the gospels: once to defend Jesus and second to arrange for his burial. But here’s the thing: the importance of spiritual rebirth has been the mainstay of our Christian faith since it began. The problem is that everyone seems to have a different idea of what that means. And that is what led me to Jim Palmer.

You see, in addition to being an All-Star pitcher and sportscaster and other stuff, Jim Palmer has a faith journey that intrigues me mostly because it reminds me a lot of my own. Palmer was disillusioned with much of the organized religion of his day, saying, “Religion made half of us afraid to die, and the other half afraid to live.” What he came to realize is that a relationship with Christ had to be more than just a relationship – it was a total immersion. It was being Christ. Not just being like Christ or imitating Jesus, but a total surrender; an openness to the Spirit as if for the first time. Palmer wrote, “Being Jesus means that we go through life embracing it all fully and feeling it all deeply. That we don’t hide and try to protect ourselves. That we live. That we show up. That we laugh. That we cry. That we hurt. That we heal. That we care. That we love. And then, that we wake up the next morning and sign up for it all over again.”  Being Jesus – what a weird idea; what a great idea. That the glory of God and the love of Jesus and the power of the Spirit could all live in poor old pathetic me…well, now that’s a game changer. And all I have to do is to say, “Yes, Lord.”

Amongst Palmer’s writings, I found this little gem, “You don’t need to be born again; you were born just fine the first time. What you do need is to wake up to the truth that you are fundamentally good, beautiful, powerful, worthy and loved just the way you are.” Now, I don’t know how theologically sound that statement might be, but I’m not too worried. I’m not too worried because what I’m hearing is a beautiful invitation; an invitation to be Jesus. “But what about me?” you might say. “What about who I am? My identity? My persona?” Well, that’s the beauty of it all because being Jesus doesn’t make you any less you, it makes you more: more purpose, more focus, and more peace. As for some of the bad habits you might be leaving behind, I’ll close with Jim Palmer’s advice on pitching: “There’s only one cure for what’s wrong with us pitchers, and that’s to take a year off. Then, after you’ve gone a year without throwing, quit altogether.”

Amen & Shalom

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