The Winning Run—an essay

By James Ross Kelly

All rights reserved–copyright 2014

I am a Christian. Some years ago I met a homeless man who had been living in his broken car for two years. He was legally blind. One eye had a cataract that had completely obscured his vision— a condition that was operable and could be healed through surgery. He would pick up enough bottles and cans to buy beer walking three miles from his car to the nearest store, and twice a month, a corrupt civil servant in charge of a rural small town sewer plant would hire him to go into holding tanks in the sewer plant and hose them off, he’d pay him with beer for work he and his employee were supposed to do in full body protective environmental suits. He’d be given the suit of course and get a shower at the sewer plant after and a ride back to his car with two cases of beer. He would then drink them all at once and eventually pass out and wait until the next month’s tank cleaning to be needed.

He wasn’t completely blind but his eyesight had deteriorated to the point that he had to read with a large magnifying glass, and still had trouble, he had been deemed legally blind and had been trying to get on social security for two years. The man whose farm he had parked his car on brought him food every day, worried about him to his wife and gave him jobs to do that he didn’t do very well, but he’d pay him anyway. I and other people would also bring him food.

Several times I offered to take him to a church that would help him into a halfway house. He had been through a religious High School and at one time had been a licensed electrician—had a wife and a home. He had a sister and a brother-in-law that had repeatedly helped him and given him a place to stay. His present circumstances were largely due to violating one of their rules on sobriety around their children. Still dutifully, they would stop and bring him to church and he would go at least once a month, the church he went to with his sister was pastored by the brother of my own pastor, so I know he was getting a straight shot of the Gospel every time he went. He’d been from a good family; he kind of went wrong on his own. He had memorized many of Bob Dylan’s songs, and used these lyrics through many of our conversations to make one point or another.

He was very intelligent, but there was a spark of life that just was not there at least to go with the intelligence that was obvious, there was a cloud of darkness that came from either alcohol abuse or a deep depression and hurt, I had no way of knowing, it just was a lost disconnectedness that translated to pain and the need for mercy, a need obvious, to anyone who had ever been given the mercy of God. He may well have had no one to blame but himself, but it didn’t matter. I began to pray for him, and asked others to do so.

He’d had the good news delivered to him in various forms for years many years. I actually think he was saved, but he was obviously not healed and not delivered. My witness was always met with his question, “How do you know you are saved?” and he asked me that question repeatedly. I meditated on this for some time. Then one night a toothache kept me awake most of the night and got to thinking and I went to look in Strong’s Greek Dictionary for the meaning in and I came to this:

 number 4982 sozo {sode’-zo} King James Version of the Bible—save [used] 93 [times in this manner]—make whole [used] 9[times in this manner]—heal 3 [times in this manner]—be whole 2 [times in this manner]—misc 3 (Total Count: 110[times in the New Testament] to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; 1a) one (from injury or peril); 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one; suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health; 1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue;1b) to save in the technical biblical sense; 1b1) negatively;1b1a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment; 1b1b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception; of the Messianic deliverance.

Then, somehow I saw a picture of this seemingly obscure Theology as a baseball game. The second out, and the bottom of the ninth, tie game and you are the winning run, of the last game of the season and a Big League professional umpire is dressed in black, with the black 40s type almost a “beanie,” baseball hat, black coat, black pants, black chest pad and, well he’s just there somewhere, in the back ground as you are running down the third baseline, I mean it’s you running, even in your middle, or old age somehow, with eighteen year old legs really taking you faster than you can go, as someone is making you run (like the someone that makes your heart pound while sitting calmly in a church pew, and the truth is being told or you read a portion of scripture that you know is true) almost as if it’s really not you, but you know it is, and the ball is coming from just past second—rifle-thrown, hard, fast and out of your peripheral vision you can see it beating you.

This was like  a dream, but not really, now the ball is coming fast and then there is the crowd and its noise is loud, really loud and somehow, somehow this is Big League Baseball, “The Show,” as the players call it, and you know also somehow that this is no different than a Roman Coliseum, in AD 66 and Nero is in one of the Penthouse boxes, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, George Bush and Barak Obama and Donald Trump are in their own boxes, they aren’t friends or anything, they are just there, and since a professional baseball game in the Roman Coliseum, seems implausible, it is no less so, that they would be there, but it would be for completely different reasons.

The heat is unbearable, but you are running—hard and fast, like you’ve never ran before, but somehow you can watch the whole thing, the catcher has angrily thrown off his mask, and somehow you can see that he is missing teeth, and recognize his grin as coming from a skull, rather than a live human, you can see this and that the Umpire has sweat pouring off him and soaking through the black uniform, in the hot August heat of a Midwest stadium, but for some reason it’s really L.A. although it’s not a Dodgers game, and somehow, you know, know somehow, that if you are thrown out you’ll die, how you know this fact, you don’t know and moments before you didn’t think this was so, and then you ask yourself why? “Why haven’t I accepted Him, as the truth, I’ve always known He was the truth.”

So this has all become like a movie and then you remember you saw Jesus sitting in the dugout as the Manager, with his arms crossed as this all began, but when you started to run, He started waving you in, and hollering “RUN!” and suddenly He’s not just a story about the truth, or a good chance at being true but, He himself, a mere 130 feet away in this allegory, or in reality the immediacy of your own heart, which is the core of your being, you see He is really the truth incarnate, and you know Him, he’s always been there telling you how to play the game right, and you realize the stories of the Bible are not so much the truth, as the truth about the Truth, and Jesus Christ is the Truth! and you can actually see this Truth in his eyes and that He’s smiling at you, and there are tears in his eyes, and you suddenly know that, and accept that, and though you can see that the ball is actually ahead of you, and the catcher is about to pick it out of the air to slam his mitt down on you, and you know he’s going to try to knock you back off the base line, and as he lowers his shoulder and hip to do just that, and somehow, at that moment you knew you’d accepted this truth to be true, and there was a speed, and you see in peripheral vision Jesus running toward you and onto the field and there is a quickening, a lifting of gravity a change in your form–you have gone into the slide before the ball instead of after it, as you first perceived, and again you see this, see it from about fifteen feet behind you, but now you are horizontal and your cleats are out and slashing under the catcher, and the point of your toe is heading straight under his feet, your left foot is underneath at an angle and it knocks his left foot off the base line, and he stumbles as the ball is still nine inches from his mitt, your right foot remains straight, and streaks across the diamond square of the Home plate and as incredulous as it seems, the Umpire sees all of this through the dust just exactly as you do, and in His perception is lightning fast, as you have been, you have also seen the uncrossing of his arms as they fly out as he’s crouched-down, they fly out akimbo from his chest, in that all forgiving gesture, that takes all of his body to complete, so everyone from every angle knows the outcome— all the crowd of Heaven cheers and this is done exactly at the same time your right foot had crossed that plate home, but His voice is loud enough that everyone in the stadium knows, and is in agreement and hollering, yet they can’t really hear Him scream, but somehow they do inside themselves, as you have heard the shouted confirming proclamation of “SOZO!”saved, then you know it is because of the Manager you were running, it was because of the Manager you had made it to third base, and you knew, that you knew that you knew it was because of what the Manager had accomplished ‘on a hill far away,” long ago that you began to run! Salvation comes generally much less dramatically than this—but it is this big of deal.

Then despite the big deal it seems, we can go quietly along, having been saved, saved from the hell-fire, whatever that is, and   future of it and from the present of our own negative emotional chains to ourselves, some of us put off the setting free of our spirit man, put off the close, and unending relationship with our Creator, Who is our Father and Jesus, He is also Jesus, our friend and manager, and then when we put off this real relationship with Jesus, then we put off the Holy spirit, who dwells inside us either dynamically or hiding and in wait of this awakening.

To call oneself a Christian and then miss out on so much, the Manager who came from a manger so long ago, that people who don’t know, or have forgotten and have begun in our own formerly Christian culture to buy into a lie, and to begin to now count it myth, the postmodern furtherance of the lie, is that it is a myth, rather than the reality that now yes it is an operative myth but it is a myth that is living and  True!

So, this  is really the power behind the truth that the Truth walked on earth as a man—the God who is there! Yes, this truth is from another world and this is the first Contact from that other world. It is tangible, it is the great blessed reality of inter-dimensional transference and blending of what is Spirit—matter, the matter of the Spirit being our own salvation, the Greek dictionaries tell me it’s at once the Greek verb sozo, and a noun, soteria, salvation, what we have religiously, as others would speak of us, in a third person conversation as to a bureaucrat about the state of our eternal souls.

Mostly this is just statistical paperwork about the game while others are playing the game! Or, the lack of this salvation becomes our undoing, as does our failure to grasp the immediacy of the Savior Himself, who will never leave us. How we accept this, or neglect it means everything. “Sozo!” Perhaps we’re better off with the verb, leaving the noun to the theologians. Wrap this altogether and it means, Saved, Healed, and Delivered.  So there is a huge problem for the church in its present state, in the healing part and delivering this across the base for an abundant life.

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” The thief sponsors the endless hand-wringing trouble of wanting to take the noun out and polish it like a car; rather than go for a drive in this sleek vehicle that someone else steers. Easily and religiously, Churchmen examine and proclaim it, suddenly is not polished-just-right, or a spot was missed, or an argument breaks out over what color it really is, or some have the noun, but others think really they have been misled and it’s an adjective and nothing more, and some on the fringe want to tell us it is no person, is no place it is no thing. That the call of “SAFE!” was made, and the game is won, “it is finished,” is everything, and there is a definite moment in time that He did this for each of us, for the Christian, Jesus is a person, the Kingdom of God is a place, Heaven is a real thing, Jesus taught us to pray, “On earth as in Heaven,” this Kingdom is to come, and is our home and Jesus in scripture tells us He is our sustenance, our daily bread!

Keys were given to each one of us, as we made our decision for Him. Whether it was an alter call in church, or a quiet moment traveling along in a car when we just finally accepted it for the truth, embraced the Creator of the universe in his human form: from history and from His presence now as our redeeming Savior. That baptism and Baptism of the Holy Spirit, communion, sanctification and much, much more follow this game winning event, is another story, or a small book of several stories, the rest of the story is our  real career, our statistics depend upon them too. So many stay outside the dugout and have only the story of the wonderful and brave slide across home plate while the rest of the team are at a banquet with the Manager. Are they saved? Of course, “SAFE!” or “SOZO!” the loud call was made in the heavens, and we are saved, but our faith then needs to make us well.  Among the pale of Christian Orthodoxy, there is a faction that believes you can lose your salvation every 15 minutes if your thoughts aren’t pure. That is not good news. And though I am no theologian I can’t accept that  is true.

We once were blind but now we see. It can’t be taken back. There is so much more, the call is just the beginning. If we do not  know we are saved it is because we have gone to sleep and forgotten the Presence of God as a memory of a person that once inhabited a now empty chair. We only need to talk to Him, and bid Him come back and sit down in our lives and do the work that He wants to. This knowing that something else is making it happen, the Holy Spirit, the great Helper, the Comforter, at work, who has so mysteriously come— and come among us, Jesus said it is better that He should go away and that the Helper should come! Think of this, Jesus said it is better that we have the Holy Spirit than Christ walking among us! If this is so and I believe it is, we most likely are missing something in many churches that do not honor His presence, but instead adhere to only the tradition of the history of His presence and a scriptural account of it.  As A.W. Tozer put it,”the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Spirit is here to help make us brothers and sisters, to weld a bond between us all, in love and fellowship, proclaiming Jesus, blessed Yeshua, a bond that He will never break, even though we continue day to day in our pettiness, and mean spirits, yet we have this— our God, God of the very God living in us, that is, sometimes grieved, sometimes is pleased, He helps us, encourages us and sometimes He speaks to us, always He loves us, oh how He loves us, and blessedly never, NEVER, will He leave us. As well as reading it in scripture, I heard Him say this, once as wind whipped by me, “I will never leave you!” in an unmistakable  voice… then that wind whirled, and swept off over three miles of sand dunes on the Oregon coast with an ocean that goes all the way to China, the same ocean can be crossed in the instant of an small radio pulse to a satellite and back down, a feat thought miraculous, a mere 100 years ago. Now as there has been for 2,000 years, now there is at the same time, here about us, this Helper, that the ancients knew could do that same thing. And many of us perceive that the church does not know Him very well, or refuses to accept, His own manifest presence to reign among us now, to be the unerring Counselor, God, awesome, and true. He comes to us from outside time, a factor of the universe He created for this relationship with us, to dwell inside us, making history an amalgam of this, then He gives us time and happenstance, often a pitched war with the enemy, He is not the cause of the war or “wars and rumors of wars,” it is simply that we are on the battleground, God gives us love and hope and the cherished, desire to know our Creator. God created time and placed us in it; many mature Christian leaders do not grasp this.

When there is a war He will see us through it. We take lightly our own seemingly diminished spiritual presence. We really do this at our own peril, we can do much more than is being done. There is coming a time, when we will have to take our salvation seriously and are Sozo’d, in a manner that we begin to walk in Him. Perhaps some of us will even run! Can the reality of the day of our salvation, His presence and the present moment be the same? Will then, and perhaps only then, the world will see Him every moment, of every day–all over the planet. Perhaps through enough of us having inside us, Jesus walking, Jesus talking, Jesus listening, Jesus loving? “In the last days, God said, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17. It says all people, all means all, can there be a breaking point where it becomes all? If there are more believers alive on the planet now, than there are in heaven, could it be that unbelievers would spontaneously be drawn to the source, and the source would be wherever two or more are gathered in His name?

Could it be that after He’s drawn enough of us to know Him, really know Him in this manner, simultaneously at once would everyone  be Sozo’d?

I told the story of the homeless man to a Pastor friend of mine, with the homeless man’s ever abiding question of, “How do you know if you are saved?” he told me about a professor in seminary, who was the most organized person he’d ever known, he had memorized the entire bible, verse, by verse, he had every minute of his day organized, down to the minute, and a schedule recorded in an appointment book, he would allow unscheduled visits, if and only if you would accompany him between classes.  He  claimed that there was so little time left and he had so much to do for the Lord that he couldn’t waste any time. Yet, every time this almost machine like Saint would begin to talk about our precious Savior, in class or out and would begin to expound about the eternal truths of the Savior, tears would well-up in his eyes and begin to stream down his cheeks.

I related this story, from the Pastor to another Pastor friend in his office and momentarily, we both looked at each other we saw tears streaming down our cheeks. I told both these stories to the homeless man with tears running down my own cheeks—he never asked me that question again. One day the car was just gone. I would like that story to have ended as the good conclusion and Christian victory— but I don’t know what happened to him.

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