Good Friday…Brats…Baseball…Faith

Last week  on Good Friday the Catholic fans of the Milwaukee Brewers faced a test of their faith. If you have ever ventured up north to take in a ballgame at Miller Park one of the staples of the spring revolves around tailgating. A true Brewer fan arrives a couple of hours early to grill and tailgate in the parking lot. In fact many of the fans don’t even enter the ballpark until the game is well underway.

When I lived in Milwaukee a number of years ago this was one of the aspects of Brewer baseball I marveled at, because in Texas no one in their right mind would sit in the parking lot for hours on a hot summer day unless they intended on being “cooked.” The weather in Milwaukee is amazing in the summer which makes grilling out a huge part of baseball.

Another aspect of life in Milwaukee revolves around faith–especially the theology and practices of the Catholic church. In some neighborhoods the Catholic elementary school is larger than the public school, and Catholic cathedrals line the sky line of the city pointing toward heaven. Often the theological dictates of the Catholic church find their way to the front page of the Milwaukee Journal like the year a map of Milwaukee was posted showing where you could eat “corn beef” on St. Patrick’s Day without sinning because of the rulings of the local parish priests.

On Good Friday the local Catholic believers faced another religious hurdle when Opening Day fell on this religious holy day. During Lent the faithful are to fast from eating meat, and here is the rub. Grilling fish is not what the Brewer faithful are known for. A typical tailgate party would revolve around burgers and brats…lots and lots of brats.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki got drawn into the controversy and released the following statement:

“As much as we love the Brewers, unlike Jesus, they didn’t die for your sins. With regard to beer and brats on Good Friday, let’s just say that’s why God created the three-game series.”

I am not so sure the LORD pays that much attention to the baseball schedule (if He did I think He would have let Nelson Cruz catch the soaring fly ball of the bat of those hated Cardinals to help the Texas Rangers win their first World Series!! Can you tell I am a Texas Ranger Fan?).
I was intrigued by one comment of a loyal Brewer fan and Catholic Dave Coenen   said:
“You know, if God’s going to keep me out of heaven for eating bratwurst on opening day, so be it.”
Of course Dave admitted that he intended to make Mass on either Saturday or Sunday to ask forgiveness.
First of all, those must be really good brats if he was willing to risk missing heaven to partake of one! Second, Dave may want to pay more attention to the Easter story to understand the price of salvation.
Easter declares to one and all that you cannot earn your way to heaven by not eating a brat on Good Friday, by making Mass, or confessing your sins. If we could earn our way there–there would be no need for the cross. No, Easter declares that Jesus paid in full the dark price for our sin, and that He offers the free gift of forgiveness and grace to all those who believe–those who put their faith and trust in Him and in Him alone.
I suspect it breaks Jesus’ heart to see His gospel so twisted and turned by the traditions and rituals of the religious world. When Jesus cried from the cross “It is finished.” He meant it. He paid the price in full. Your hope of salvation has nothing to do with eating or not eating a brat on Good Friday. It has everything to do with your faith. As Jesus said:
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18 NIV)

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