The Detroit Tigers are in the World Series! Even I, who never turn on the TV, spent a few minutes on Saturday night checking out the game. As a kid, I was a rabid Philadelphia Phillies fan. I remember curling up in bed listening to the Phillies game on my transistor radio late into the night. My greatest baseball experience was attending the last game of the1980 World Series, when the Phillies defeated the Kansas City Royals. My daughter Talitha, still wears the tee shirt I bought that night.
One of the best players on the Phillies that year was Pete Rose. I’ve always admired Pete Rose for his enthusiasm, determination and hustle. Judging by his stats, Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He is the all time hits leader with 4,256 and was named to Major League Baseball’s All Star team 17 times. Yet what Rose did off the field earned him a lifetime suspension from baseball. Unfortunately, he had a penchant for gambling. Not only did Pete Rose bet on his own sport, he most likely bet on games he managed.
Since 1989, when he was banned, Rose steadfastly denied he bet on baseball. In 2004, however, when his eligibility to be elected to the Hall of Fame was about to run out, Rose published a book, My Prison Without Bars. In the book, Rose finally admitted that he bet on baseball while managing but never against his own team. At the same time he wrote that he refuses to “beg forgiveness like a TV preacher.” He’s not sorry, sad or guilty because, in his own words, “I’m just not built that way.” It’s a half confession at most.
In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, Pete Rose was back in the news. A brief article, “Retailing Regret,” claims that next April, Robert Edward Auctions will put up for bid 30 baseballs that Rose signed with the words, “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.” The baseballs, from the estate of collector Barry Halper, have random I.D. numbers between 215 and 299 as part of a limited collection of 303 baseballs. A Pete Rose autograph normally goes for between $25 and $50. The president of Robert Edward Auctions expects that these balls will go for upward of $1,000 each, however. I wonder how much money Pete Rose made peddling his 303 Confession Baseballs!
’ve been very disappointed by Rose’s 15 year refusal to admit he bet on baseball. I’m sad that his semi-admission of guilt in 2004 was evidently a ploy to gain admittance to the Hall of Fame. And all I can do is shake my head at his desire to capitalize on his so-called confession.
Of course, if I am honest with myself, I know that Pete Rose’s sins are no worse than mine. They are just more public. I, too, find it difficult to admit that I am wrong. I, too, am reluctant to confess my sins. I, too, hesitate to apologize. I, too, want others to see my best side rather than my dark side. I, too, am very good at fooling myself. Yet, if you and I are going to lead from the heart, we have to be honest with ourselves, recognizing our flaws as well as our gifts, admitting our mistakes as well as our triumphs, and confessing our sins as well as celebrating our strengths.
I John 1:8-9 say, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I praise God that we have a Savior who restores us to health when we sin. All we have to do is ask.
As pastors, you and I have the opportunity to model for our congregations a holistic view of confession and pardon. No, United Methodists are not required to go to confession before they come to church. However, the practice of using a confession and pardon sequence in worship reminds us that we enter into God’s holy presence as flawed human beings who are in need of God’s pardon. We are sinful people who need the cleansing power of Jesus Christ in order to be spiritually healthy. We are God’s children, who need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to realize our full potential.
Next year I may just sign a few confession baseballs myself and put them up for auction at the Jesus Fest/Mission Auction. Maybe that would be “begging forgiveness like a TV preacher.” Perhaps I, too, would be guilty of “retailing regret.” At least the proceeds will go to a good cause!