November 27, 2015 (Ascension Episcopal School–Sugar Mill Pond Campus, Youngsville, Louisiana)

*The following homily was preached at the pre-game Eucharist for the Ascension Episcopal School Varsity Football Team on November 27, 2015.

 “David proved the victor with his sling and stone…The Philistines, when they saw that their hero was dead, turned and ran.”—I Samuel 17.50-51[1]

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

There is an old song from days long gone that highlights the overcoming of preconceived notions and the adversities put up by others because of them. One particular verse of this song goes like this:

“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said [that] the world was round.

They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.

They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother when they said that man could fly.

They told Marconi wireless was a phony—it’s the same old cry.

They laughed at me wanting you—said I was reaching for the moon,

But, oh, you came through—now they’ll have to change their tune.

They all said we’d never get together—they laughed at us and how,

[But] oh, ho, ho—who’s got the last laugh now.”[2]

All of the men mentioned—Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, Wilbur and Orville Wright, and Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of the radio)—were men who, for their respective times, made bold scientific and aeronautical claims…and were laughed at for making them. The times may have been different, but “the same old cry” remained the same: “That’s absolutely crazy!” “There’s no way that can happen.” “It just isn’t possible.”

The doubts and put downs were meant to bring these guys back to the preconceived notion of what reality really was and what was really possible. But to the naysayers they each refused to listen, pursuing their claims, two, three, four times and more. And because of their tenacity, it was they, not the naysayers that were proven right. Because of Columbus, it is now accepted scientific fact that the world is, indeed, round; thanks to Edison, I can enjoy the sounds of my old school jazz records; thanks to the Wright Brothers, we can fly from here to New York City in, at least, 5 ½ hours, instead of driving there in 22 ½; and we can enjoy the use of wireless electronics, such as cell phones, radios, iPads, and laptop computers, all thanks to the early work of Marconi. It is these five guys that are still having the last laugh 67, 78, 84, 103, and 509 years after their respective deaths.

Each of these guys were a lot like David, the hero of the story we earlier heard from I Samuel 17. Just like Columbus, Edison, the Wright Brothers, and Marconi, David was up against what seemed to be impossible odds. David, a young boy, small in stature, accepts the challenge of defeating Goliath the Philistine, a warrior giant, said by various ancient manuscripts to have stood anywhere between 6’ 9” to 9’ 9”.[3] Based on the physical characteristics alone, Goliath and his fellow Philistines had reason to believe in a positive outcome in their favor. Goliath laughed at him, believing young David to be a fool for challenging him: “Am I a dog that you come out against me with sticks? Come on’ he said, ‘and I will give your flesh to the birds and the beasts.’” But young David does not back down: “You have come against me with sword and spear and dagger, but I have come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the army of Israel which you have defied. The LORD will put you into my power this day…[A]ll the world shall know that there is a God in Israel.” Goliath moves toward David; David moves in closer to Goliath. The small Hebrew boy pulls out a rock from his bag, puts it in a sling, and hurls it right at Goliath, striking him in his forehead, bringing about his demise. In the end, it is not the giant Goliath who has the last laugh, but the small and young David. This small Hebrew boy went on to become the king of all Israel and an ancestor of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, through whom it has become known that not only is there a God in Israel, but in all the places of the earth. David remains victorious through the Ultimate Victory of Jesus Christ.

And now, just like young David and like Columbus, Edison, the Wright Brothers, and Marconi, all of you now face a monumental task—one that many didn’t think was even possible for you all to come to. Last week after your shutout victory against Cedar Creek High School, Coach Mike [Desormeaux] told you guys that the media had predicted you to lose, that it would be THE upset of the week. Coach Mike believed in you guys and, true to his convictions, you defied the odds, going way above and beyond the predicted outcome that some Ascension outsiders had against you. Coach Mike also last week reminded you guys of how where you are heading now was only a dream three years ago. Because of your hard work and persistent determination, that dream is becoming more and more real. To those who said that it wasn’t possible, time and time again, you have been proving them wrong. Week after week, you have been beating the odds stacked against you. You have been getting closer to having that last laugh.

So if there’s a word of encouragement that I can leave you with as you head into tonight’s game, it is to go out on the field with spirits, with tenacity, with unabashed determination like David. Like David, don’t be fixated on whatever odds people may have against you, but have faith in the work that you have put into this week, knowing that you have what it takes to accomplish your desired goal. There may be people out there still saying that Ascension is crazy to think that it will advance past tonight, “There’s no way that can happen,” “It just isn’t possible.” Like David, don’t be intimidated by them; don’t let the haters get to you. Remember all that you have accomplished this year and how it has brought you to this point. If you do that, combining it with all the hard work that you put in towards coming to this point, there will be nothing stopping you.

When you’re on that field tonight, play with the same drive, determination, and faith that David had. Continue defying the odds. Leave your mark. May your work tonight bring you even closer to having that last laugh. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New English Bible, copyright © 1970 by the Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press.

[2] “They All Laughed,” music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, from Shall We Dance (1937), RKO Radio Pictures, New York, New York.

[3] The Dead Sea Scrolls text of Samuel; Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE); 4th century Septuagint manuscripts; Masoretic Text.

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