“Damn Yankees”

 (Proper 13B )

John 6 verses 24-35

After Jesus fed the multitudes, these five thousand men wanted a repeat miracle.

But Jesus quite bluntly said to them, as we heard today, that they should be thinking more about God’s wonderful grace, rather than their stomachs.

How true that can be – when we think more of own comfort rather than our souls.

No wonder so many people today are discontented, lacking the vision to see beyond their immediate and personal physical needs.

In the 1950s, there was a popular musical called ‘Damn Yankees’



The leading character is a middle-aged man named Joe Boyd, who from childhood has dreamed of becoming a famous baseball player.

Then it happens – one night a mysterious character, a Mr Applegate, walks into Joe’s life, and tells him that he has the power to make Joe’s dream a reality.

Mr Applegate can turn middle-aged Joe Boyd into ‘Joe Hardy’ a young, athletic and gifted baseball player who will transform the team, and take them to dizzy new heights.

At this point, we had better note that the mysterious Mr Applegate is none other than the devil in human form.

Joe, of course, soon learns that there’s a catch to all this.

In exchange for stardom, he must sell his soul to the devil.  (c.f. Dr Faustus)

Joe finds the offer impossible to refuse.  He agrees to it, but on one condition: that he can back out of the agreement, if he wishes, just before the team has secured the championship.

The devil, believing that once Joe has tasted success, he’ll never want to give it all up, agrees to his request,

So Joe writes a short note, kisses his sleeping wife goodbye, and leaves home to begin his new life.

And what a life!  He becomes an overnight success.  Fans cheer him wildly, youngsters idolise him, and older people think of him as the son or grandson they’ve always wanted to have.

Joe relishes every moment of it.

Gradually, however, something unexpected happens to Joe.  All the fame and fortune begin to grow stale.  Deep down inside him there is an emptiness that he cannot quite explain.

Finally, the deadline date with the devil arrives.  The prospect of major success for the team is there.  But, after much soul searching, Joe invokes the get-out clause in his deal with the devil, and gives it all up.

Perhaps, at the back of his mind, he hears the echo of Christ’s words: ‘what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself’

Whatever the reason, Joe disappears from the baseball world as mysteriously as he arrived.

A few days later, he turns up at his home again, kisses his wife, and goes back to being Joe Boyd again, the middle-aged man who once dreamed of being a baseball star.



The fictional Joe Boyd would surely agree wholeheartedly with what Jesus says to the crowd in today’s Gospel:

‘Do not work for the food that goes bad, instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life…

 I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty’

What Christ is saying, what Joe Boyd experienced, can be summed up in a single sentence: ‘the human heart has a hunger and a thirst that nothing on earth can satisfy’

Only Jesus Christ brings true satisfaction.  For he is truly the bread of life.


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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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