"Where O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sins the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:55-57
You don't have to spend much time with me before the name David Campbell will pop up in my conversations. I met him close to 40 years ago when he came to work with the youth at my home church, and then we attended seminary together. When lectures grew long and tedious, we'd pull out a piece of notebook paper and play dots to get us through. Other times, we might have skipped a class to play racquetball. Since that time we've been colleagues in ministry and friends in life. The longest year of my ministry was the one David spent serving as a U.S. Army Chaplain in Iraq.
David loves sports, but he really loves baseball. It is killing him that the Major League season is on hold and that he can't follow his beloved Atlanta Braves as they try to get back to the playoffs and maybe even bring home a World Series title. Really, it's literally killing him.
So much so that the other night he watched the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series. Yes, 1992, as in 28 years ago. A grown man, a husband, a father of three and grandfather of one, watched a ball game that happened almost three decades prior.
Now, if you're an Atlanta sports fan, and a Braves one in particular, you probably know what happened in that game and in that inning specifically. The Braves, trailing 3-1 going into the bottom of the ninth, managed to score a run and get runners on second and third. With two outs, Francisco Cabrera came to the plate. He smacked a line drive and the first run, the tying one, scored easily. Sid Bream, the runner on second, chugged around third and headed for home. He was never known to be fleet of foot, but especially not while wearing a clunky brace on his left leg. Somehow or another, he slid in SAFE!! and Atlanta went bonkers as Braves announcer Skip Caray shouted, "Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!"
David told me that, rewatching that moment, he had tears in his eyes. Even though he knew how the game would turn out, he still cried. Or, perhaps, he cried because he knew the outcome. Perhaps, those hot tears stung his eyes because he felt the stab of loss even in the midst of victory, because he misses the game he loves.
As followers of Jesus, we are assured of and rest confident in the victory we have in Jesus. The Cross witnesses that God has defeated our ugly sin and the Empty Tomb is proof that even death has been rendered powerless in eternity. It promises us that heaven awaits those who trust in Christ. We may weep between here and there and certainly we mourn those who go before. Yet, we weep with confidence because we know how the game is going to end and we know that our God is going to win. Always, even our saddest tears are sweetened by the victory that is ours through Jesus Christ. And that's better than a World Series ring.