Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Massillon Tigers Prayer Service, 2022

Tigers Prayer Service
Hebrews 12:1

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, I didn’t grow up around here.  I grew up in Niagara Falls NY, which is near Buffalo.  (Go Bills!)  The high school I went to had about 1,200 students, which is pretty close to what Washington High School has these days.  We had a football team, and I played in the marching band.  Our stadium—if you could call it that—seated, maybe, 500 people.  And I never once saw the stands filled in my four years of playing in the band.  So, of course, that’s how I thought high school football worked.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to Massillon six years ago to become the priest in this church.  A high school football stadium that holds over 16,000 people!  More than 30 times the size of my high school stadium!  A stadium that is filled for most games, and is always filled for the rivalry game.  I hate to sound like an outsider, but this is just crazy to me!  I definitely had a completely different experience than people who grow up in Massillon have.

Which got me to thinking this year . . . why is that?  Why is the only remaining Paul Brown stadium so big?  And how can it possibly still sell out when the school only has around 1,200 students?

And, well, you know the answer before I even say it.  The reason is because of the great cloud of witnesses.  It’s not exactly the same as the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in the reading from Hebrews we just heard.  But the idea is the same.

All those people who keep coming out to cheer you on, they are your cloud of witnesses.  In the good years and in the bad years, the people of Massillon stand behind this team.  They support you as athletes, they support you as students, and they support you as people who will go on to support the ones who come behind you.  Massillon has always had a strong and important football team, because Massillon has always had strong and important people.  You are not the first, and you won’t be the last.

Which brings us to today.  Everyone in town feels like this is their game, like this is their day to beat McKinley.  And—in a way—it is.  But for each of you sitting in this room today, there’s something more.  Because this literally is your game and your day, in a way that no one else will ever know.

Whether you are throwing a ball, or blocking a tackle, or carrying water to the players, or calling the plays from the sideline, this game is your game.  You are the ones who will play this game, in front of—and on behalf of—that great cloud of witnesses who are supporting you, and who will always support you.

Massillon is a unique place, and I am proud and honored to host this prayer service for you each year.  Whether or not we share the same faith tradition, we are still each made in the image of God.  The God who creates, redeems, and strengthens us this day, and all the days to come.  May God bless you all, and may God keep you safe today, and every day.


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