When I was in first grade, my parents bought a house across the street from a large city park in Seymour, Indiana. It was a great place to grow up. There were lots of big trees to climb, a large public swimming pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, a huge playground with a merry-go-round, tall swings, slides, and monkey bars. Immediately across the street from our house was the baseball diamond. We spent lots of time playing baseball in the summers.
Even though I was a year older, my brother Joe passed me up in size when I was five years old, therefore a natural competition between us. Because we were older than our siblings and the other kids in the neighborhood, we were the captains of the two teams we would organize to play baseball.
Not every kid had a baseball glove, so we’d share with the opposing team. Of course, if you had a brand new “mitt”— that’s what we called a baseball glove—you wouldn’t let an opponent use it. Those who still did not have a glove would play in the outfield. (We had learned the hard way that stopping a line drive in the infield without a glove was not pleasant.)
In order to pick the teams, I would toss a bat, handle up, to my brother who would catch it with one hand. Holding the bat where he caught it, I would wrap my hand around the bat on top of his. He would then place his other hand on top of mine and so on until there was no room. Whoever held the top spot on the bat, even with just fingertips grasping the top of the handle, would get the first pick. You had to be able to hold the bat with those fingertips when all the other hands let go. If you dropped the bat, the other person got to pick first.
We’d make the other kids form a line. We’d call the ones we picked to come stand with us. We’d go back and forth picking the better players first, usually the older kids. We’d only let girls play (usually our sister) if we were really short on players. Finally, we’d be down to one or two kids who were not good at all and would be more of a liability. One or two of these extras would be left standing. Sometimes my brother (now an attorney), who is smarter than I, would say, “You can have him (them).” I always felt bad for the one(s) not picked. I would welcome them to my team. My team would be bigger, but not better. My brother was a better team manager because our “extras” often cost my team the game.
Jesus chose twelve disciples, but he welcomed the many “extras” who also followed him, including many women who provided funding for his ministry. The good news is that we are all welcome on Jesus’ team. Everyone gets to play—even some of us “liabilities.” Thanks be to God.