Sermon Text: Last Epiphany 2016 (7 February)

Preached by the Rev. Will Compton – listen to the audio here.

I was told that there were some in the parish who cringe when sports are talked about in a sermon. I have not talked about sports yet in any of my sermons, but since it is Super Bowl Sunday, I think this is the perfect time. However, I do not want to talk football. I want to talk baseball. I love the game of baseball. It is a strong belief of mine that our God loves the game of baseball as well. My favorite team is known as the loveable losers. People have asked, “You grew up in Mississippi. How did you become a Chicago Cubs fan?” Growing up in the nineties, I used to watch the loveable losers on WGN with none other than Harray Carey as the broadcast announcer.  They played most of their games during the afternoon, so after school, I would come home and catch the last five innings or so of their games on TV. One of my happy places in this world of ours is in the outfield bleachers at Wrigley Field. I only go to Chicago during the summer so that I can catch a Cubs game.

However, I quickly found out what it was like to be a Cubs fan. I always get very excited at the beginning of a new baseball season. Surely, surely, this will be their year. Most seasons than not, it has only taken a couple of weeks to realize that the Cubs are not very good once again.

I remember the year they lost their first fourteen games of the season and actually had a champagne party to toast to their first victory of the season. I remember the 2003 season, when the Cubs were well on their way to their first world series since 1945, only to give it up in the last couple of innings and go on to lose the next game in an epic turn of events only the Chicago Cubs could display. I remember the 2008 season. They won 97 games, the most in the National League, and were swept out of the playoffs, in three straight games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs. The Cubs had a great season this past year, but once again, could not make it to the World Series. I had hope because the 1985 movie Back to the Future even predicted that the Cubs would win it all this year, but they forgot to take into account how good the New York Mets pitching staff would be.

Talking about the Chicago Cubs with you all is very therapeutic for me. We are only a couple of months away from the start of a new baseball season, so talking about past disappointments is preparing me for the excitement of the upcoming season and the disappointment I have come to expect.

It has been since 1908 that the Cubs have won the World Series. Teddy Roosevelt was President then. It has been since 1945 that they have been to the World Series. Franklin Roosevelt was President then. The joke told by a priest in this diocese is that the Lord said to the Chicago Cubs, “Do nothing until I return.” I would describe us Cubs fans as watching and waiting. Watching and waiting until the glory of the Lord is shown, and the Cubs finally break through and win their first World Series in over one hundred years.

Our lives are full of watching and waiting. We all are called upon to watch and to wait. No, I am not necessarily talking about waiting in the check-out line at Kroger, or watching the slow movement of the hands on a clock during a boring meeting. I am not speaking of waiting for a table at an overcrowded restaurant, nor am I talking about watching the Super Bowl. The watching and waiting I speak of is holy, and we can point to many times in our lives to understand what it means to watch and wait. Usually, these times are full of stress and anxiety such as watching and waiting for news from a doctor, or the results of a test. Other times it can be sad or fulfilling, such as watching and waiting with a person who is dying. We watch and wait for a diagnosis, for death, for an answer about our future, for an answer about someone we love’s future. When we watch and wait, we feel as though our lives are in the balance, and we are rendered helpless.

During our time of watching and waiting, we may hope and try to stay positive. Then we may lose hope completely. Our minds run wild with possibilities and ‘what ifs.’ We reflect, pray, commend the situation and our watching and waiting to God. We may feel close to God, or far away from God. We may even become mad at God, and this is all ok. We are only human and God understands this.

Now, I have said that watching and waiting is holy. And this is true. It is true because we never watch and wait alone. We are always watching and waiting in the presence of Christ who watches and waits with us. Christ himself knows watching and waiting all too well. He watched and waited in the garden of Gethsemane for his betrayer and those who would take him to his death. As he watched and waited he prayed, he worried, he asked the Father to take this burden from him. Christ keeps watch with us in those times of uncertainty and he waits with us as the circumstances of our lives unfold because Christ knows what it is to be us, to watch and wait as we do.

In our gospel lesson today, we find the disciples heavy with sleep. They have been brought to the mountain to behold the glory of God manifested in the Transfiguration. They have been brought to the mountain to watch and wait for the glory of God to be revealed, but they are heavy with sleep. We know what it is like to be heavy with sleep. Luke tells of the transfiguration like none of the other gospels. The writer of Luke is the only one to disclose to us that the disciples were heavy with sleep as they watched and waited. And it is only because they stayed awake that they saw the glory of God when Christ was transfigured. They watched and waited and Christ’s glory was revealed to them.

We can learn from these sleepy headed disciples on that mountain. Keep watch and wait, for the glory of the Lord will soon be revealed to us. Keep watch and wait in the presence of Christ in those times of uncertainty and anxiety. Keep watch and wait with Christ who watches and waits with us.

Today’s opening hymn, “Ye watchers and ye holy ones,” is very poignant for this day as we close out Epiphany and begin our Lenten journey. First it is full of “Alleluia’s” which will soon go into hiding as we enter the season of Lent. In fact, “Alleluia” appears a whopping twenty-six times in the song, giving us a chance to get them out of our system until Easter.

Furthermore, this triumphant song is a cosmological roll call. We have the seraphim, cherubim, St. Mary, angels, archangels, patriarchs and prophets, martys, the twelve apostles, and all the saints. All are commanded to “raise the glad strain,” “cry out,” “and magnify the Lord.” This is a high and holy roll call of which we take part as watchers. We are “Ye watchers” referred to in the first line of the hymn. In our watching, in our waiting, in our anxiety, in our fear and uncertainty, in all that which is unknown in our lives, we are watchers, and we wait. While we do so, we are called to “raise the glad strain,” “to cry out,” and to “magnify the Lord.” As we await his glory we are to make our song Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, because we never watch and wait alone. Christ is always there with us.

So keep watch dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this day. AMEN.