Cal Ripken Jr. and Our Due Praise
We were made to praise. Most of us have been raised in a culture of consumerism that has discipled us into a style of living that causes us to think the next new gadget, another church, or a better job will finally satisfy that itch. Yet, what if our soul was created to praise? For that to be alluring at all, for our consumeristic ways to be transformed outward, the thing or person we were created to praise must be better than everything else.
In Psalm 65:1, David says, “Praise is due to you, O God.” This is David making known that we all have a debt to God, and that primary thing he is due is praise. To me, this is a reliving call to obedience. God is not calling his people to some reluctant obedience, but to a joy and satisfaction found in praising the Maker. What does this look like though?
One image comes immediately to my mind. On September 6, 1995 I sat in front of our TV watching to see if one of my childhood heroes would break a record that had stood for a long long time. On that day, Cal Ripken Jr., the Baltimore Orioles shortstop, played his 2,131st consecutive baseball game. That’s a lot of games, trust me. Prior to that day, Lou Gehrig held that record.
Now, back to the whole praise thing. At that time, Cal Ripken Jr. may have been the most humble and likable player in Major League Baseball. He was considered a workhorse that the average working player could relate to. When Ripken broke the record, something happened that I had never seen before and have not seen since.
The entire stadium stood and applauded…and applauded…and applauded…and seriously did not stop for over 20 minutes. Ripken goes into the dugout several times (remember, he was a humble player). The crowd gets louder and louder. He keeps coming out. The crowd applies proper joy and celebration for that moment and no one’s face in the stands looks bored. It’s pure jubilation.
Ripken goes and takes off his hat and jersey and gives them to his son and daughter. His father and mother look on with such pride. Joe Dimmagio, former teammate of Lou Gehrig (previous record holder) watches on as well.
All of his teammates faces are full of joy and celebration. No envy, no jealousy, just pure love and celebration. After the 5th or 6th time coming out of the dugout, his teammates push him to go circle the stadium. Fans rush down from higher seats to shake his hand, to hug him, and to be a part of the celebration. Umpires, the opposing team (the Angels) all congratulate him. To be honest, it’s a pretty incredible thing to watch.
Now, I think Ripken’s 20 minutes give us a glimpse of what it might look like to praise the one who deserves it. But 20 minutes? If 20 minutes felt fitting, and yet exceptional, in 1995, imagine the worth of our Triune God that deserves an eternity of praise! Psalm 33:1 says, “Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.” Again, we were created and redeemed to praise our God. And what we find is that his goodness and love and holiness creates a happy and holy people who find that which makes them the most satisfied. Look at what Psalm 65:4 says about praising God in his presence: “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!”
Kaleo Church, every time we gather as a body, we are doing what we were made to do and that which will make us most happy. We are the crowd that day cheering on Ripken, but we are cheering on the one who atoned (Ps. 65:3) for our times we have lacked praise. When we see all he has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection, we realize he is the one we were made to praise. 20 minutes is really long for something like that to happen in a sports game. Eternity will not seem long because the character of Jesus and what he did for us expands far beyond 2,131 baseball games. We will hear endless stories in the New Heavens and New Earth about how Jesus saved people from and for billions of things…each and every one deserving of praise.
During Ripken’s record-breaking game, one fan has a sign that says, “We consider ourselves the luckiest fans on the face of the earth. Thanks Cal.” That is us! One writer who was at that game as a 13 year old now describes it this way, “It’s as if a god was among us. Like he came down and went to work everyday, and because of that we could relate to him.” But our Savior didn’t just show up to work for decades. No, he laid down his own life as a demonstration of true humility (Phil. 2:6-8). He was God among us and he didn’t even count equality with God a thing to be grasped. No, emptied all of himself to the point of death on a cross to bring us into an eternity of praise. Humans can accomplish some amazing things but we are not the heroes. No, we are the luckiest people alive if we know Jesus.
“Praise is due to you, O God.”