There’s no crying in baseball.

      

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

[When the seventh month came – the people of Israel being settled in their towns] – all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

 

Luke 4:14-21

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

 

 

Just over a month ago the world of entertainment grieved the loss of Penny Marshall an American actress and director most notably famous for her role as Laverne DeFazio in the television sitcom Laverne and Shirley.

 

She went on to be a darn good movie director directing numerous movie hits including a movie called Big starring Tom Hanks that was the first women directed movie to gross over 100 millions dollars at the box office.

One of the movies she directed was entitled “A league of their own,” which was a comedy-drama about the All American Girls Professional League, which was a real life league started during World War 2 to keep interest in baseball alive, when some thought that men shouldn’t be playing baseball during the war, but going to war instead.

 

In one scene, the manager of the Rockford Peaches, played by Tom Hanks starts criticizing one of his players and yelling at her and asks here what team she is playing for…

The player starts crying…

The manager yells: Are you crying…. ? Are you crying..?

And then: “There’s no crying in baseball…

…there’s no crying in baseball”

 

That movie line became so famous that people sometimes use it for their particular occupation or sport…

 

Like…there’s not crying in politics…

Or …there’s no crying in rugby…

 

And it is supposed to suggest how strong we are supposed to be, and in some situations to cry is to show weakness.

 

When I was much younger, the phrase when you hit a tough situation was: “Be a man.”

It was expected that real men didn’t cry and crying was a feminine thing.

 

But to tell you the truth I was always a bit of a crier. When I would get into trouble at school or at home I would cry.

 

I remember one of the very few fights I had was when I was about eight years old and this other boy wanted to fight me. I agreed because I was convinced that this boy couldn’t hurt me and I thought I would just wrestle him to the ground and it would be over, but he made it a big production and told every boy in the school it seemed and when I showed up for the fight there were about fifty boys wanting to see some kind of blood bath.

 

It was quite unnerving. The fight started and within about two seconds I had him on the ground. But the bigger boys wanted to see blood, so they kept dragging me off of him, standing him up and hoping it would turn into something much more entertaining and gruesome.

After several times of me taking him to the ground, I started crying.

I was winning and I wasn’t getting hurt, but I cried, because I hated the whole thing. I hate fighting. I hated the boys who wanted blood, I hated hurting someone.

 

I remember crying all night one time when my dad was away in Australia for three years, wanting my dad to come home.

 

I remember getting married and crying throughout nearly the whole wedding service.

 

I remember numerous times in church, of being moved by the Holy Spirit, overcome with the touch of God, and sometimes tears of penitence and asking God’s forgiveness.

 

I cried like a baby the times we had to take a loyal dog to the vet to be put down due to old age and ill health.

 

I cried when my Uncle Alan died, and at my grandmother’s funeral. Many year ago when our friends little girl died, I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the service. I thought I would cry the whole time, but another minister Elwyn sat me down and told me that I would make it through the service…to cry now and hold off crying at the service, because my job as a minister was to be there for the family. I made it through that service.

 

My kids often make fun of me because I cry during movies at tender times or when people save others, or when there are dogs or when two people fall in love and there are problems, but in the end they are able to be together.

One time during a movie, a little girl thought her dad was coming to get her, but her dad didn’t take her and drove away in the car while she was crying and bawling and yelling out , “Daddy…daddy…” and it touched something deep within my psyche and I just cried and cried.

 

Each year at the Baptism of Jesus I anoint the congregation with oil and frequently I am brought to tears. The first time we did that I really cried as I blessed you and pronounced that you were God’s beloved.

 

I am glad we don’t say: “There’s no crying at church.”

 

In fact think of the times when people sometimes cry or feel like crying at church. Baptisms, confirmations, funerals, weddings, Christmas, Easter…times of anointing or communion…times of confession or prayer….times of hurt or healing.

 

One woman told me a while ago that I was one of the first men she saw crying in public and to her that was a good thing.

It makes me feel like crying just to say it.

 

But it hasn’t always been like that in the church. I know there were ministers taught never to use a personal story. There were ministers taught to not show emotion in church.

It is about God, some say, not about you, so your job as minister is to take the “you” out of it.

Take the human out of it and have it be all about God.

 

I obviously don’t subscribe to the same views as some, because I think God lives in us and the way God reaches out to people is precisely though the cracked vessels of humanity…

God comes to us often in and through the people we meet, sometimes very ordinary people and sometimes very extraordinary people…

…and what I think people need from ministers and preachers and leaders is authenticity and some vulnerability…and some honesty….

 

Sometimes I think God works through people not in spite of the “Self” but through that unique “Self.”

 

So I want to proclaim to you that church should be a safe place to cry.

 

In his book, Why Only Humans Weep Dutch Psychologist Ad Vingerhoets says that tears are highly symbolic and one thing they symbolize is helplessness, especially in children. Only humans cry in adulthood.

Primarily they are a visual sign that a human needs help, that they are in some kind of physical or emotional pain, or that they are in a vulnerable situation..

And what is unique about humans is that they take so long to grow up. They are in essence in childhood, helpless and dependent and vulnerable for many years. Brains in humans don’t fully develop until humans are in their twenties.

 

Crying in children is important because it bonds them with special adults for care and protection and love.

Human children however, because of their developing brains are learning machines and are very adaptable.

 

And while loss and separation and helplessness and vulnerability are reasons to cry we learn over time two other reasons to cry.

One is empathy or compassion. We learn to cry when we see others in pain and feel for others.

The second is that we learn to cry in positive situations where there are intensification of relationships.

Once we are adults, tears are not just a signal to others or hurt, loss or helplessness, but tears can be a signal to ourselves of good social and moral functioning.

That is why adult can be overcome with tears when they see something wonderful, or loving, or sacrificial, or see people in need, over when they are overcome with love, or joy or relief.

 

And so our first scripture text is kind of weird in one sense because we read that when the scribe and priest Ezra read the book of the law, the people started crying and Nehemiah the Governor told them not to cry.

 

The context of this story is that the Jews have recently arrived back in Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been destroyed some seventy years before and thousands upon thousands killed and most of the remnant taken as slaves to Babylon.

And finally under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah they have come home to rebuild Jerusalem and to establish their Religion and Law again.

 

And when they head their law being read to them, their scripture being read to them they start crying.

 

I think that Nehemiah was trying to tell the people that this is a day of joy, so they don’t have to cry, but maybe he missed that fact that sometimes when humans are overcome with joy they actually cry.

 

I think he made a mistake. But there is another mistake that he and Ezra made, I think. Nehemiah the governor, and Ezra the Priest were so concerned about rebuilding Jerusalem and the Jewish nation and the Jewish faith, that they lost compassion.

They were rigid legalists who were for rigid holiness and purity so much so that they told Jewish men to divorce their wives if they weren’t Jewish, leaving those women pretty much helpless.

Rigidly enforcing the law of Moses, it was the beginning of a way of life that often excluded, strangers, women, children, the sick, foreigners, those with mental illness, those who have made mistakes, criminals, or any people who were considered different, for those people were not clean enough or holy enough.

 

And so when Jesus comes on the scene one of the first things he does in Luke’s gospel, is to set the scene for his ministry, and to tell the people what he is all about.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

His ministry is to the vulnerable, the helpless, the hurt, the sinner, the criminal, those who are physically handicapped… those who are mistreated or oppressed…

His ministry is to those who have every reason to cry…

 

And so maybe as followers of Jesus Christ, we are supposed to start crying. Cry because we have compassion for those who are in need. And there is so much need in this world.

Cry… so it will motivate us to minister to the vulnerable, the helpless, the hurt, the sinner, the criminal, those who are physically or mentally ill.

So that we will minister to and bring justice to those who are mistreated or oppressed because of their social status, their gender, their race, their ethnicity, their age, their health, their faith, their sexual orientation or any who are vulnerable.

So maybe coming to church is to help us to cry. Cry with compassion for others for as Paul the apostle wrote, when one hurts we all hurt.

 

And maybe we come to church to learn to cry because it dawns on us that we are poor.

That we are spiritually poor and lacking in faith in God, in trust in Jesus, in leading a life of helping our neighbour.

Maybe we are poor in loving unconditionally and universally all people.

 

And it dawns on us that we are in captivity. That we are held prisoner to our culture, our family background

… or we are enslaved to a habit, an addiction, a sin, to material things, to power, to ego, to greed or something else…

 

Or maybe it dawns on us that we are blind…

Blind to our faults and shortcomings…

Blind to the cries of the poor and needy in this world..

Blind to those who use us or even abuse us..

Or blind to the ways we subtly or not so subtly hurt others.

 

Maybe this is a day to cry and say. I am sorry, God, I am helpless God, I am vulnerable God.

I need you Jesus.

 

And maybe we come to church to learn how to cry, because of overwhelming love and joy.

You are God’s child. You are someone that Jesus died for. You are someone Jesus love unconditionally.

 

It doesn’t matter what you have done, or far you have strayed from God, how much you have hurt others or been hurt by other.

God forgives you, loves you, has not abandoned you and is there for you….

God loves you unconditionally, extravagantly and eternally.

 

There might be no crying in baseball, but here in church there are good reasons to cry.

We acknowledge our sin and helplessness. We feel compassion towards others. And we are overcome with joy in being forgiven, loved and accepted. Amen.