World Series Infamy and Finishing Well

With the Detroit Tigers about to make their way in to the World Series again (I hope), I give you this baseball quiz:

Can you name this ball player (feel free to hum the theme song from Jeopardy while answering the question)?

He played in the Major Leagues for 22 years (one more year than George Brett);

Had a career batting average of .289 (higher than Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Ernie Banks);

Hit 174 career home runs (more than Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and “Homerun” Baker);

and Played for the Kansas City Royals for parts of two seasons (which is more than Kirk Gibson and Harmon Killebrew, but sadly is not more than Kyle Davies).

Do any Denny Matthews wannabes (The Kansas City Royal’s Hall of Fame broadcaster) have an answer?

One more clue: In the early morning hours of October 26, 1986, in the tenth inning of the sixth game of the World Series, with his team leading the series three games to two, opposing player, Mookie Wilson, tapped a weak ground ball in his general direction. The loser in a race between a snail and a turtle would have been faster than the slow rolling baseball. All our mystery player had to do was reach down, grab the ball, touch first base, the inning would have been over and his team would have had a chance to win the championship– instead the ball dribbled through his legs. Whoops! The Mets won the game and the next game too and this ball player has forever been known for the biggest gaff in World Series history.

As all Boston Red Sox fans know (sorry for bringing up a painful memory, Larry and Lynne Bollinger)– I speak of Bill Buckner.

Except for that error, Bill Buckner had an outstanding career. A player with similar statistics today would have more money in the bank than T. Boone Pickens (well, not quite than much). Instead, the only thing that most people remember him for is the ball that gently rolled through his legs. Poor Bill Buckner, we should remember all the great plays he made in his 22 year career, the good times he provided or the year when he led the league in hitting, but instead we remember that one error in his second to last baseball game. He suffered such heartache and distress over that one game, he moved from Boston to Idaho (where presumably Idahoans know Boise State football and potatoes but not baseball). Needless to say, the baseball career of Bill Buckner did not end well.

I don’t want to have the same thing said about my pastoring at Central ( and Karla refuses to move to Idaho). I’ve been pastoring about as long as Bill Buckner played major league baseball. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful “career” (I don’t like calling pastoring a “career.” It’s more “calling” than “career.” But you know what I mean). These last eight years in particular have been terrific. God has done great things at Central Church. We have seen some mighty victories, and now as I am about to leave– I certainly don’t want the proverbial ball to roll through my legs.

I want to finish well.

Finishing a pastorate well means being faithful to the last amen.

It is saying “thank you” with the same fervor as a hot dog vendor at Kauffman Stadium.

It is reminding the congregation that they are like a ball park plate of nachos without the cheese sauce–they are not done yet and there is more goodness to come! In fact, our Lord has a lot of good things in store!

It’s preparing the way for the next pastor– so that he/she can take off running (like ol’ Mookie darting to first base).

It’s recognizing just how blessed I have been to pastor such a great church and wonderful people (unlike the 1986 Red Sox– you’re all champs in my book!)

The Apostle Paul didn’t know an “infield fly” from a “fruit fly” and he certainly never heard of Bill Buckner, but he used a sports analogy when he wrote Timothy on how he was finishing well (not simply in ministry but in life). He wrote: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7) My prayer is that declaration will be said of you and me. Let’s finish well.

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