This is The Note about Joe DiMaggio (though don’t ask me to tell you about him; I’m Canadian and I’ve never watched baseball in my life!). My wife and I have recently got into watching Seinfeld, and we just started season 3. At the beginning of the season, on episode 1: “The Note,” one of the sub-plots (can a show about nothing have sub-plots?) is one of Kramer’s many ridiculous incidents. This one was about DiMaggio.
Kramer sees the one and only Joe DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts and goes on to tell Jerry and Elaine about the (almost) encounter.
“He dunks like he hits!” says Kramer. (You’ll have to watch ^^ if you haven’t yet). Why is this the case? Because he’s so focussed, he can just block out everything around him!! Kramer tries to get his attention in the middle of Dinky Donuts, hilariously, and fails. If you’re familiar with Kramer at all, you are well aware that he has got to be in the running for oddest person on TV. Who could miss him, especially when he’s banging on the table and yelping like a dog in public!? I would certainly turn around. I might even react like the waitress did: “shut up or we’ll throw you out of here!”
One of the things that made Seinfeld a comedy success was its oddly accurate commentary on daily life, showing the humour found in the most mundane and quirky happenings. Unknowingly, this little sub-plot about Kramer yelping at Joe DiMaggio is a picture (albeit an unorthodox one) of what Lutherans believe with regards to the human will. Like I said: unorthodox, but stay with me…
In Article II of the Augsburg Confession, Philip Melanchthon wrote,
“Since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.”
Is this biblical?
Melanchthon was taken to task by the Catholic church of the day on that very question. They presented their “Confutation” in response to the Lutheran Confession. So Melanchthon wrote “The Apology of the Augsburg Confession” in reply to the Confutation. Melanchthon, in many more pages than the Confession, rigorously defended the Lutheran understanding of doctrine, and it is well worth the read.
To answer this question briefly, Yes, it is indeed biblical.¹
Jesus, in John 6:44, says that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Here, referencing the Greek, Jesus speaks to mans capability of coming to God. He says the capability does not exist. (cf. Rom.7:18)
King David says no one seeks God, no one does good (Ps.14 & 53). He even confirms, speaking of his own birth, that we are in fact conceived and born (brought forth) in sin & iniquity (Ps. 51). God Himself says it in Genesis 5 and 8: every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually, and, the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.
Scripture also speaks about this sinful state-of-being with terminology such as “slavery” and “death.” We are, by nature, enslaved to sin (Matt. 6:24; John 8:34-36; Rom.5:19, 6:7,17-21; Gal 5:1), and dead in sin (Prov.21:16; Rom.6:23; Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 2:13). Outside of Christ, newborn or elderly, we are utterly without hope in our sinful condition.
So, having established the biblical precedent for such a claim about the human person, what does that mean for us? for Kramer & DiMaggio? It means that we are more oblivious to God than Joe DiMaggio was to Kramer (yelping and all). Yes, we are like DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts, except our problem isn’t how focussed we are.
Our problem is sin.
In his Large Catechism, Luther describes having a god.
A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.
What is really your god? For the person dead in and enslaved to sin, god is in the mirror. The heart that is mastered by sin can only look inward, where, as Scripture says, every manner of sinfulness emerges (Gen. 6:5. 8:21; Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:18-19). If we look in the mirror for all good–if we look to the mirror to find refuge in every time of need, how are we to look to the one true God? Are we like characters oblivious to each other in a show that is literally about nothing, but oblivious to the God who created us? Even worse, are we rebellious to this God, antagonistic even?
To answer this question briefly, Yes, we are indeed.
As Jesus’ disciples once asked: who then can be saved?
Through the apostle Paul, God has taught us how to call on Jesus for all that is good and how to run to Him in every time of need.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom.10:9-15, 17)
So, the answer is: to hear the Gospel. To call upon the name of Jesus as your true God means first and foremost that we have heard God’s Word. The Holy Spirit, through the Word, does all the work. God said that His Word does what it is purposed to do; it does not return to Him empty (Isa. 55:11). Nor is God’s Word void of the power to accomplish its purpose. Genesis tells us that God spoke all things into existence, and John 1 tells us that Jesus is Himself God’s Word through whom everything was created.
So, God ‘Worded’ everything into being, without so much as a bang on the table or a yelp.
The difference between God’s Word and (should I even make this comparison??) Kramer’s yelping is just that: the Word of God created all things, will recreate all things in the last day, and it remakes sinful hearts into hearts that call upon Christ to be their God, look to Him for all good, and run to Him for refuge.
It takes those who are dead and enslaved in sin, and makes them alive and enslaved to Christ (a much better master). He didn’t just bang on the table and yelp from across the room. He became a man, took on our death and our former master, and defeated them once and for all to call us to Himself, and claim us as His own.
What does this mean for you? Well, whether you’ve already heard God’s all powerful Word, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, or not…
You have now, and it is for you.
This was never really about Joe DiMaggio. Sorry.
by pastor nick.