In 1908, Jack Norworth was riding on a train on his way to Manhattan, New York. To pass the time, he tapped his Vaudevillian roots and began scribbling song lyrics onto a piece of paper. He passed the lyrics onto Albert Von Tilzer, who in turn put the lyrics to music. Within a year, the two men had a hit song and one of the most enduring songs in American history. You probably have never heard any of the verses which speak of Katie Casey and her love for baseball. But, I bet you have sung the chorus a time or two. You see, when Katie’s beau shows up to take her to the show, she resists and instead pleads,
“Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I don’t care if I never come back. Let me root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ol’ ball game.”
A baseball park is a wonderful place. There’s really nothing quite like it. The sights, sounds, and smells are all woven into the fabric of our nation and into the memories of generations of Americans. And, as wonderful as it is to watch a game on television, there’s really nothing quite like being at the park. It is one thing to see the game on my high definition television screen. It’s something else to sit in the stands surrounded by other cheering fans, all root, root, rooting for the home team.
Last summer, my family and I traveled to Pittsburgh to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates were mired in a twenty-plus season losing streak. But, in 2013, they were pushing the Cardinals for first place late into the season. The winner of these upcoming games would be in first headed into the late summer push for the pennant. The crowd was electric. It was awesome to experience being with all of the fans who were pushing and striving for the same thing (by the way, the Pirates won). I probably could have watched the game by myself on television or caught the highlights on ESPN, but it was much more meaningful to be part of the crowd encouraging the team and celebrating with each other.
The experience reminds me of what the Bible has to say about the importance of believers gathering together. The author of Hebrews writes:
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV).”
He gives us three exhortations in this paragraph. First, he says we should hold fast to the confession of our hope. In other words, we must maintain our trust in Jesus. Second, we need to find ways to continue to motivate and prompt one another to love, grow, and serve. And third, we must continue to meet together to encourage one another.
In the busyness of contemporary life, it’s far too easy for us as believers to “neglect to meet together.” So many things pull at our time. And, most of those things aren’t bad or evil in and of themselves. Nonetheless, as these things pull us from gathering together, they do stunt our growth in Christ. We need to come together. We need to be encouraged. We need to encourage others. That’s part of God’s design for believers. We aren’t meant to wander around out there on our own. We’re meant to part of a gathering. We’re meant to be together.
For decades now, fans have sung “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the ballpark during the seventh inning stretch. This little ditty written by Jack Norworth and put to music by Albert Von Tilzer has been a staple of American Pastime for over a century. What’s funny is that Norworth and Von Tilzer had never been to a baseball game when they wrote the song. As a matter of fact, Jack Norworth would see his first baseball game over thirty years after writing the classic (and it would be twenty years after the song’s writing for Von Tilzer).
It reminds me of the myriad of professing believers who claim to follow Christ yet never gather with His people. They claim that one thing is important to them, but their priorities demonstrate something else.
Don’t let secondary things keep you from being a part of the gathering of God’s people. They need you and you need them. We’re pushing, striving, cheering and rooting for the same things. We need each other. So, plan on being a part of it this week.