Luke 15:7 – Just so, I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (RSV)
October 13, 1960, Forbes Field, Pittsburgh — the Pirates won the World Series, beating the New York Yankees on Bill Mazeroski's bottom-of-the-ninth home run. I remember watching it the year I was 13. We saw it on a small television in the cafeteria of Hamilton Junior High School in Lethbridge, Alberta. Mazeroski's home run came in the bottom of the ninth inning of game 7, with the score tied at 9-9. As the ball cleared the fence, I erupted with joy. It was an incredible moment that any kid and most adults dream of.
Two years later I had a taste of that as I led our junior high football team to the championship. I scored two touchdowns and was carried from the field by my team-mates, which was a huge thrill for a fifteen-year-old. My father kept the newspaper clippings until his death.
And now decades later I wonder — what if that day was the highlight of my life? I have had a life in ministry, some of it as a church pastor and some as a pastoral counsellor. There have been the usual and some not so usual ups and downs. But I think there have been greater victories than the Hamilton Jr. High championship of 1962. Every time a person has found their way back to God, or has responded to being found of God, represents a far greater victory than any sports championship. For what can you give to redeem your own soul? In a moment of grace, in an eyeblink in time, eternity turns on its great hinge of the cross of Christ and heaven is opened.
This is always true, but I find a special pleasure when the person is one nearing the end of life. This is like winning the game in the bottom of the ninth in the last at-bats. There are special joys in all ministry. Youth ministry has its joys of contributing to a lifetime of faithfulness. Ministry to the retired has its joys because those with the perspective of years have so much to teach us. For those who come to it anew or return after many years of hiatus, there is a special joy because in such a moment, if you listen, you can hear angel laughter on the ripples of eternity. It sounds remarkably like the echo of horse-hide against ash and an over-the-top exclamation, "It is … over the fence, home run!" (which were the actual words of the announcer that day). Or better yet, "Rejoice, for I have found my sheep!"
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the pleasures and thrills of this life, but help us to seek the thrill of eternity in every living soul. Amen.