In Game 4 of the World Series, something special happens as the fans, teams, officials stand quietly and hold cards bearing the names of people personally known who have had cancer, is currently struggling with cancer, or has died of cancer. A co-worker, a parent, a child, a grandparent, a colleague, a friend. Literally everyone is the crowd holds a card with a name handwritten on it. It’s called “Standing Up to Cancer.”
These are always moving moments, as the crazy cheering of the game stops, the crowd quiets down, team rivalries are set aside, and everyone focusses on a common theme … standing up against a disease that has, unfortunately, become way to common for all of us.
Of the years I have observed this practice, the most recent World Series Game 4, held in Atlanta on October 30, was by far the most moving. Watching it happen on television, it was obvious that the game logistics people had their act together … thoroughly together. During multi-minute segment where advertising would normally be run and the television audience would break away for commercials, the live feed from the stadium continued. The audience, the multi-tens-of-thousands of fans, stood absolutely still, holding their name cards at the same height. If there was any movement in that stadium for those moments, I never saw it. People standing still, facing the same direction, in total silence. It was amazing. No one moving, going to get a hotdog or drink, no one moving towards the restrooms. No movement.
Standing still, really still, can be powerful. Think about all the multiplicity of things that had to be overcome to get the World Series crowd to stand completely still, facing the same direction, holding their cards at the right level. Again, our hat is off to the logistics people. As those who work very hard to handle concert logistics for a few hundred students at a time along with a full orchestra, we at YouthCUE are mightily impressed with whoever was charged with pulling off this feat.
Sometimes, if we work hard enough and cover all the bases, we can get people to focus and concentrate on something that unites us.
There are other times when something even more powerful happens. Not often, but every now and then, something comes along which stops us in our tracks and makes us stand still, calm down, and be frozen with awe, speechless with wonder.
It happened in Exodus 14 when Moses had the children of Israel out in the middle of desert, running with what little they owned away from the Pharaoh and his big, powerful Egyptian army. Moses said, “Do not be fear. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” As Robert Sterling sings in his song, “Outta Here,” Moses’ people were “out of space, out of money, out of luck, out of time.” There was nothing else they could do be stop in their tracks and silently wait for God’s deliverance. And, of course, that’s when the Red Sea parted, and the rest is history.
It also happened to the shepherds in the field as the angels burst forth into a racket loud enough to wake the dead. The shepherds were speechless. Soon, they found their ways to the manger, and there, they were stopped in their tracks again. Their sense of awe made quieted the noise.
Several years ago, I was asked to help celebrate communion in a large Methodist church. Communion that day was served by intinction. It was my duty and privilege to hold the cup of juice for the congregation to pass by and dip the bread just broken for them by another minister standing beside me. Said John, the other minister, to each person as they passed by and he handed them a piece of bread, “Body of Christ broken for you.” It was then my turn to say to each person as they dipped the bread in the juice, “Blood of Christ, shed for you.”
At that point in my ministerial vocation, I had assisted serving communion hundreds of times. But this time was different. With little notice, it flooded over me like a tsunami of grace, “In the sacraments and ordinances of Christ, the ground is level … astonishingly level. All of us, officiants and celebrants, ministers and laypeople, all of us … ALL of us … are in need of grace, forgiveness, mercy, salvation.
We live in a time when our national pastimes have become outrage, competition, political prowess, “get them before they get us,” tear down everyone who looks, acts, thinks, and speaks differently from me. May God’s mercy be upon us!
O God of hope, peace, joy, and love, we ask that you might stop us in our tracks, cause us to be still, make us to be quiet, and help us to focus on that which will unite, strengthen, encourage, and save us from ourselves: The Child in the manger. The Prince of Peace. The Lamb of God.
May our worship and all the moments of our lives be so consumed with your love that we become givers of that love to others, that we become issuers of grace that is great enough to redeem us all.
Yes, by all means, we need to stand up to cancer. We need to stand up to many things in our lives. In doing so, let us never forget to stand still, to stand silent long enough to see the grace, mercy, compassion, and salvation provided to us by Emanuel, God with us.