October baseball is here. Major League teams have played 162 games over six months for this moment. Stadiums are packed with hopeful fans. As I write the Yankees and Astros are battling it out for the American League pennant and the right to meet either Washington or St. Louis in the World Series. There is nothing quite like baseball.
The 1989 movie, Field of Dreams is rated number five among the favorite baseball movies of all time. In the story, Ray Kinsella responds to a “voice” that urges him to build a baseball diamond, complete with lights, in the middle of his Iowa corn field. After doing everything the “voice” commands him to do, Ray is stunned to see Shoeless Joe Jackson and some of the greats of the game emerge from his cornfield to play the game as they did in their youth.
The story climaxes with an invitation from Shoeless Joe to join them in the cornfield, a dimension beyond the edges of this world. But Ray, who has risked everything to build the field, is not invited. Instead, Jackson invites the cynical 1960s writer, Terrence Mann. Ray explodes in a fit of frustration demanding, “What’s in it for me?” To which Shoeless Joe asks, “Is that why you did this Ray, for what’s in it for you?”
It is a good question. According to experts in marketing, it is the question we all ask when we consider purchasing any product or joining any organization. In our age of seeker-sensitive churches, it seems to be the dominant question asked by anyone considering a church. “What’s in it for me?” But, is it the right question?
When Jesus invited Peter, James and John to leave their home, their families and their boats, I wonder how He would have responded if they had asked, “What’s in it for me?” Perhaps He would have responded as He did when the young man with great possessions refused to give up his wealth. How much do we miss of what God has for us because we are so focused on “What’s in it for me?”Jesus’ invitation to join Him on life’s eternal journey sounds strangely different than our twenty-first century marketing plans. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Perhaps what is “in it” for us is the same thing that was “in it” for Jesus: the pleasure that comes from obedience to the Father. “My food,” Jesus said, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34). When the Apostle Paul reached the end of his journey, he measured it in this way, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Timothy 4:7). “I did not prove disobedient to the Heavenly vision.” (Acts 26:19).