In 1995, NSW played the West Indies in a cricket match in Newcastle. A friend of mine umpired the game and gave one of the game balls to my stepson, Shane. Shane absolutely hates cricket and was going to throw it away and at my gasp of horror offered it to me instead. Later I got the ball signed by Sir Wes Hall (West Indian team manager) and plays Ian Bishop (West Indies) and David Freedman (NSW). David had taken 8/49 in the WI first innings and ended the match with figures of 10/93.
In 1997 I volunteered to work with Cape Town City Mission in South Africa for 12 months. To help raise funds for this trip, some friends arranged a fundraising dinner and auction, with George Capsis (Cronulla Rugby League team Chaplain) as the speaker. The auction items included an autographed Cronulla jersey, an autographed Newcastle Knight’s jersey and an autographed pair of Andrew Gaze’s basketball boots.
After much debate and arguing with myself, I decided to add the cricket ball to the list of auction items. After all, I couldn’t let my friends do all that work if I wasn’t prepared to make some sacrifices.
My brother Fred, knowing how hard that decision was, offered to drive up from Sydney to attend the dinner – just to offer some moral support.
The dinner went well and the auction started. The cricket ball was the last item up for bid. It was a sad night, in just a few more moments this ball – one of my prized possessions – would no longer be mine.
Bidding started slowly, but excitement and tension increased as everyone realised there were only two bidders, each one pushing the other higher. Seated at the front of the room I couldn’t see who was bidding.
When the final bid was made and the auctioneer called ‘GONE’ the winning bidder was revealed. It was my brother! I was so glad it was him and not someone I didn’t know.
Fred came to the front with all the other successful bidders, handed over his cheque and claimed his prize. He then came over to where I was standing, and with hands behind his back smugly said, “Guess what I got?” I told him I knew what he had and was glad if I had to give the ball up it was going to someone who would value and appreciate it as much as I did. He then told me to hold out my hand. I figured he was going to tease me further by letting me ‘hold’ what was now his ball. But as I held out my hand he carefully and very gently placed the ball in it. As he did so he added the words “Happy Birthday – it’s yours!”
That was a very emotional moment for both of us! I don’t cry in public. I don’t show my vulnerability in front of people – not even those I know. But on this occasion there was no helping it. As he said those words I threw my arms around him and the tears started. I asked if he knew how much I loved him. He assured me he did. His gift told me how much he loved me.
“So how does this relate to the Cross?” you ask.
Well, that simple. It’s a reminder that I belong to HIM. The first time the ball belonged to me because it was given to me – a gift from my son to do with as I choose. In just the same way, my life was a gift from God – a gift to do with as I choose, which is why He gave us all a free will.
Then the ball was lost to me when I decided to include it in the auction and it was bought by someone else. In the same way, we are sometimes lost and separated from God by our sins and the choices we make in life.
But then the ball belonged to me a second time because it was bought for me when my brother paid a price for it – the price he paid to purchase the ball at the auction. In the same way, I belong to God because Jesus Christ bought my life by paying a price – His Life – when He died for me on the cross!
My brother died in a hit and run accident in July 1998. That ball is no longer one of my prized possessions. Instead, it’s my ‘most treasured possession’. It’s a constant reminder of the brother I loved and lost – but more importantly, it’s a reminder of his love for me in the same way that the Cross is a reminder of Christ’s love for me.