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A sermon delivered by Robert Browning, Pastor, Smoke Rise Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, Ga., on July 11, 2010.

Communion Devotion

Luke 23:33-49

Jim Leyland, the manager of the Detroit Tigers, called it the first 28-out perfect game. That’s the best description I heard of the baseball game that still has people talking.

In a game played between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians on June 2, pitcher Armando Galarraga retired 26 consecutive batters. This put him one batter away from pitching a perfect game, which is defined as pitching a game in which no batter reaches a base for any reason.

Cleveland’s Jason Donald came to bat with two outs in the ninth inning and hit a ground ball between first and second that was fielded by Tiger’s first baseman Miguel Cabrera. He, in turn, threw the ball to Galarraga, who was covering first base. As the replay showed, Donald was clearly out, although it was close, but was called safe by first base umpire, Jim Joyce. With a look of disbelief, but nothing but a smile on his face, Galarraga returned to the mound and retired the next batter to preserve his one-hit shutout.

Of course, in true baseball fashion, Joyce was booed vociferously by Detroit Tigers’ fans and chewed out after the play and again after the game by manager, Jim Leyland. To say that emotions were running high would be an understatement.

How did Galarraga react, though? Did he rant and rave like the fans and most of his teammates? To everyone’s surprise, he did not. Even though he was as shocked as everyone else by the call, after Donald was called safe, he said not a word to the umpire, but calmly went back to work and got the next batter out.

What was Joyce’s response, the umpire who missed the call? After watching the replay, he quickly admitted that he made a mistake. He sought out Galarraga before he left the ballpark and apologized to him. 

Galarraga graciously received his apology and said, “Nobody’s perfect.” He also said that he was certain that no one felt worse about what happened than Joyce.

The next day, Galarraga took the Detroit line-up out to the umpire at the beginning of the game instead of manager Jim Leyland. Guess who the umpire was that received the line-up? Yea, it was Jim Joyce. The two men hugged and shed tears together in front of thousands of fans in the stadium and millions more watching on television.

To no one’s surprise, this event is still the subject of many articles and talk shows. It has captured the attention of people all over the world. Why is this? Responding to disappointment and pain with dignity and grace captures people’s attention.

“Surely, this was a righteous man,” the centurion said at the foot of Jesus’ cross. What moved this hard-hearted soldier to say this? No doubt he had witnessed many crucifixions. This was, after all, his job.

Evidently, he had never seen a man die the way Jesus did. Instead of cursing his enemies and railing against his tormentors, he died with grace and dignity. He forgave those who hurt him, took pity upon the criminal who appealed to him for mercy, had words of compassion for his mother and affirmed his trust in God to take care of him after he drew his last breath.

“Surely, this was a righteous man.” Even the most jaded person could not ignore what happened that day.

It didn’t take long for Jesus’ prediction to come true, did it? “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” As William Barclay writes, “The magnet of the cross had begun its work even as Jesus breathed his last breath.”

What have you done lately that caught people’s attention? Like Jim Joyce, did you apologize for a mistake or like Galarraga, did you handle a painful situation with dignity and grace? What kind of impact did your response have upon those around you? If you had it to do over, what would you do differently?

I believe you will have that chance this week. Ask God to help you make the right call this time.

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