Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Sermon

 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 
-Matthew 7: 19 and 20

"Let your life be your sermon."
- Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in "42"

I live in Vero Beach, Florida.  The Brooklyn Dodgers came here for Spring Training when I was a kid.  I was little, but I remember hearing the adults around me say the name...Jackie Robinson.  I didn't understand why it was such an important event when he came to town.  I didn't know his skin wasn't the same color as mine.  All I knew was that Springtime was a very busy time for my family's business and a lot of people came to town to see this group of men play a game called baseball.  Daddy took my brother and me to Dodgertown to see some of the games.  The names I heard there sound like a history book of famous players:  PeeWee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella...and of course, Jackie Robinson.

Daddy loved baseball and the old Brooklyn Dodgers so much that when they were playing their last games at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, my country-boy father loaded us into the car and took us to New York City.  The year was 1957.  I was 13; my brother was 6.  We talked about that trip the other day.  Somehow, we knew we were experiencing an important transition in the life of our country but we didn't know exactly what it was.  After all, the water fountains and restrooms at many places in our town still carried the signs "Colored" and "White." 

As a movie, 42 may present a somewhat romanticized version of the events of 1947 and Jackie Robinson's entrance into the world of all-white major league baseball.  But it's gritty enough to bring home a true picture of what the man endured.  The whole point of the message here is that Branch Rickey kept telling him that he could not retaliate or lash out at the venom and hatred that was being thrown at him simply because his skin was black.  

"You have to let your life be your sermon," Rickey told him several times.  In other words, as the Bible tells us, they will know who you are and what kind of person you are by the way you act.  It's hard to act right sometimes.  Hard enough for regular people in ordinary situations.  That message that was being preached to a black man when I was just a toddler hit home with me yesterday when I saw it played out on the movie screen. To have been in the spotlight and held his emotions in control while the taunts from the stands and the other bullpens were constantly hurled his way had to take superhuman control.  The kind of control that can only come from One Who Was Bigger Than Him.  Jackie Robinson was chosen to be the one to break the color barrier because he was a man of character and faith.

When we get right down to it, we all walk a sermon every day of our lives.  Somebody is watching everything we do...our families, grandkids, friends, acquaintances, people we pass on the street.  They know what kind of tree we are by the fruit we bear.

The question for each of us is...what is my life preaching?