It was 2 November, 2016. Game 7 of the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had taken an early lead, but blew it in the eighth inning. The game was tied after nine. These were the teams that had gone the longest without winning a World Series. It did not look good for the visiting Cubs. Their best relief pitcher had given up the tying runs, and now they were going into overtime. Then came one of the two most famous rain delays in Chicago Cubs history. (The other was “the night God cried;” the first game under the lights at Wrigley Field, which was rained out.) During the rain delay, Jason Heyward called a team meeting. The Cubs right fielder reminded everybody that, in spite of some miscues that game, they were there because they were the best team. Many credit his team meeting and speech for what happened next. The Cubs scored two in the tenth, and gave up only one, to win their first World Series in 108 years.
There have been other famous team meetings. Coach Rockne’s “win one for the Gipper” speech comes to mind. There was even a time that Jesus called a team meeting.
Jesus had just given a pre-game speech. He knew he would soon face death, and so prepared his disciples.
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again. (Matt 20:18-19)
Hardly had the game gotten started, though, when the mother of two of his apostles (who happened to be his cousins) committed an error. She came up to Jesus and asked that her two sons be allowed to sit on his right and left hands in the kingdom. These would be the two most prominent positions of honor, and she may have figured that kinfolk should fill them. He told her and her sons that they didn’t know what they were asking. They were going to suffer just to enter the kingdom. Furthermore, it wasn’t his choice who would get those prime positions.
Of course, nothing happens on a team that doesn’t get out. The rest of the apostles heard about this request. Naturally, they were indignant. Possibly they were upset just that the request had been made. Certainly they were upset at the brothers for trying to get a jump on their own requests for those honors. They were a team, but that didn’t necessarily mean they liked each other. The zealot and the tax collector probably looked down on each other. The four partners in a fishing venture argued like partners in any business. Petty jealousies were going to affect the game, so Jesus called a team meeting. “Jesus called them unto him, and said,”
Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matt 20:25-28)
As team meeting speeches go, it was definitely not one of the most moving or inspirational. It doesn’t have the ring of William Wallace’s (or at least Mel Gibson’s) “Freedom.” It doesn’t incite a crowd like Marc Antony’s (or Will Shakspere’s) “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” oration.
On the other hand, the message was clear, even though the speech had a distinctly negative tone. Pull together, be a team. We can only win this game as a team.
Well, coach, we need your speech today. Not that today is different from any other age, but we have a lot of people wanting preeminence today. Even among those who claim to follow the biblical example of independent congregations tend toward a hierarchy. Even within individual congregations there are some who want the right or left hand. If we are to “win the world for Christ” (whatever that means) we must do it as a team.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Rom 12:10)