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John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

November 21, 2000

The Sausage Race

For our summer vacation this year my family took a tour of major league baseball parks in the Midwest. We saw "The Jake" in Cleveland, the new Comerica Park in the heart of Detroit, and both Comiskey Park and venerable Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Then we went to Milwaukee.

The Brewers were limping to the finish of a bad year where they eventually finished 22 games back in the National League Central division. The day we visited, 1950s-era County Stadium was in its last weeks of life, with the team's towering but unfinished new park looming just behind the center field fence.

At the concessions and in the stands, there wasn't much talk about baseball. But there was a lot of excitement over something called "The Sausage Race," which was going to take place between the top and bottom halves of the sixth inning. People were planning their food and bathroom runs around it.

"I'm gonna get hot dogs in the fifth inning—I don't want to miss the Sausage Race," I heard one woman tell her husband. They were using it as a carrot on a stick to get their kids to behave. "If you don't settle down, we're not going to stay for the Sausage Race!" said a mom to her pre-schooler.

I looked around. People were wearing Sausage Race T-shirts. The souvenir shops were full of Sausage Race stuffed dolls, commemorative pins and hats. The Sausage Race was doing a better business than the Brewers.

The crowd was subdued during the game. But when a door in the left field fence opened up in the middle of the sixth inning, there was a huge cheer. Out of the door came four members of the grounds crew, each dressed like a huge sausage. A starter's gun sounded over the PA system, and, as best as they could, the four trotted in the costumes around the warning track to home plate. The crowd went wild for their favorites. "C'mon Bratwurst!" "Go Polish Sausage—you can take the Hot Dog!" In the end, the Italian Sausage won.

When the race was over, the season's stats for each sausage were posted on the scoreboard. And a lot of the fans went home.

This got me thinking about church, and what we turn it into sometimes.

Jesus called us to be in community with other believers so we would grow in faith, support each other, and reach out in ministry and mission to people who don't know who He is yet. But too often, we forget about that and get sidetracked by other things.

Think about the places where congregations stagnate and conflicts arise. We expend our energy on issues that are little more than preferences of style and taste. We fight against our turf being invaded. We make church into something comfortable for ourselves and our friends who are just like us. We want our needs to be met, and we vote with our feet when they aren't. It's like going to the ballpark for the Sausage Race instead of the baseball game.

Jesus called us to get into the game, to be in community with other followers so we would grow in faith, support each other, and reach out in ministry and mission to people who don't know who He is yet. Anything that takes us away from the mission He gave us is... sausage.