I suppose just about everybody is writing about Derek Jeter today, whose last career at bat as a forever-Yankee and most popular, most loved player in baseball, was a walk-off single against the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium last night. If you scripted that into a movie, you would have to say, “Nah … too perfect. Wouldn’t happen. Not realistic.” Well it happened, as have a number of seemingly-scripted moments during his whole career that have delighted fans everywhere.
It hardly matters that the Yankees didn’t make it into postseason play this year. The postseason would have been anticlimactic. This year was all about number 2: Derek Jeter. Respect for how Mr. Jeter played the game and carried himself throughout his career trumped any competitiveness.
This whole year was one long good-bye, as every stadium in which he played did something to mark his last appearance in their ballpark. At Angel Stadium earlier this year, at the Yankees last game there, Jered Weaver presented him with a surfboard signed by all the Angels; that’s after spending his whole career trying to get the man out.
Jeter’s numbers are certainly good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, but if they weren’t, his character and personal integrity would. A tribute to him in Sports Illustrated records: “New York. You’ve been with me for the past 20 years. Your grit fueled my will. Your history strengthened my resolve. Your scrutiny exposed my flaws. Your expectation was my inspiration. From my first at bat until my final out, you helped make me who I am,” signed, Derek Jeter.
It’s fitting that there was no final out. Only a final game-winning walk-off hit. That means that for the rest of his life and on into eternity, they’ll still be trying to get him out. And no one will.
At the end of the section on the Sermon on the Mount we have been studying, Jesus concludes, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
This can be quite disconcerting. How can Jesus put all these impossible expectations on us, after telling us that those who are blessed are the spiritual beggars; those who mourn over their own sin, and those who long for a righteousness they know they don’t possess? I mean … really … He just told us to be as perfect as God! Try that for a little while this afternoon and see what happens!
Here’s why this appears confusing at first, but really is not: God never lowers the bar on His expectations for us — including what it will take to get us into heaven — because that makes us continually and humbly relying on Him for everything, and I mean, everything; the will to obey, the faith to make it real, the power to step out, the grace to make us capable, and mercy when we fail.
Derek Jeter will be the first to say he’s not perfect, but he would also say that everything in life — including baseball — demands perfection anyway.
Two things that work together for the follower of Christ: the standard which is beyond our reach, and the reach of the Holy Spirit in us which gets us beyond ourselves.