After leading the congregation in an opening prayer, the Rev. Steve Nelson, of First English Lutheran Church, went back to his seat, picked up a baseball bat with his right hand and put a baseball cap on his head.
He then returned to the podium to give his meditation at the weekly Lenten Luncheon, sponsored by the Wapakoneta Area Ministerial Association.
Nelson spoke Wednesday on the topic of “He saved others, he cannot save himself” during the Lenten Luncheon at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Nelson recited a poem by Ernest Thayer — a poem that the baseball almanac described as the single most famous baseball poem ever written and one first published in the San Francisco Examiner in June 1888.
“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day./The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,” Nelson recited. “And then when Cooney died at first and Barrows did the same/ a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.”
“It was now Casey’s turn to get a hit, but another teammate, Flynn, proceeded Casey, as did Jimmy to bat.
“For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to bat,” Nelson said.
But Flynn was on third base and Jimmy was on second base it was now Casey’s turn.
Casey missed out the first two pitches, and he was ready for one more.
As 5,000 people were watching Casey, his face was stern and his muscles were tight waiting to hit the third pitch.
“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,” Nelson recited. “And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Mudville — Mighty Casey struck out.
“I like this poem because Casey failed miserably,” Nelson said. “Oh he had the potential and the possibility for him to hit that ball out of the park was definitely there — but Casey failed.”
Nelson noted Thayer had it right for what we look for in a savior.
“We want the best,” Nelson said. “We want a winner. We want someone whom we can depend upon and whom we can look up to with pride and say ‘He belongs to us,’ ”
He explained for believers, when a hero fails that means the game is over.
“We can only say ‘wait until next year’ — for all is now lost and the season is done,” Nelson said.
Did Jesus see himself as a failure when he hung on the cross?
“He certainly had the potential because Jesus was God’s very best player, yet He didn’t even swing the bat,” Nelson said. “When He refused to save himself did this mean that the game was over.”
It’s a good thing that God doesn’t play by the rules humans set and does not look at success in the same way that people do, the pastor said.
“God takes our little games and turns them upside down until we don’t even know what game we are playing anymore,” Nelson said. “By the way, we call this perseverance of faith.
“We are great in God’s Kingdom when we take what has been given to us and we use it for the sake of others,” he said. “When Jesus refused to swing the bat and He freely gave up His life for us on the cross by failing miserably to save himself, He didn’t lose the game, He saved the world.”