Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58

No, I am not going to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. Matthew is shooting in a tournament up in Denver.  Kim is coaching other archers in the same event. Chuck and one of his Dungeons and Dragons group will be doing their thing. I will probably be napping or walking or just messing around.

However, there was a day when I lived and died with professional football. It was because of my love of the game, I learned one of the most memorable lessons of my life.

Let me take you back to January 9, 1988.

It was a bitterly cold January day in northeast Ohio. The wind was whipping off Lake Erie.  It was Cleveland Browns weather. We were playing the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the NFL playoffs.  Unfortunately for me, it was also the same day that my diocese (insert presbytery or district) had scheduled the ordination of a handful of new priests.

As a somewhat competent seminary student, I was chosen to help out with the liturgy that is assist the bishop during worship. I was an overgrown altar boy.

Also assisting the Bishop were a half-dozen of my classmates, all of us looking like mini-cherubs. We were to hold the book for him, remove and put his hat (miter) on his head, take and give him his staff (crozer) at just the right time, and do all kinds of other stuff.

I actually looked forward to it, because one of my heroes Assistant-Bishop Edward (Lefty) Pevec was doing the service.  Bishop Pevec was a kind, gentle, gracious-gracious man with a genuine smile that came quickly, and a wry sense of humor.  For those reasons alone he was a hero to me, and he had pitched minor league baseball before going into the ministry, forever earning the nickname, Lefty.

Lefty was a good-good man, but he was also known to be very deliberate in word and in deed.  He took his time doing everything, especially worship.  My over-grown altar boys and I gathered and plotted before the ordination service.  If we could move Lefty along, we would only miss the first quarter of the Browns game.

We took every opportunity to keep the service and Lefty moving along. We were literally racing to remove his hat, or hold the book.  We thought we were being subtle and very slick, until it came time for his sermon.

After he read the Gospel, Bishop Pevec turned to his mini-cherub helpers grinned his beautiful wide smile and said, “Before the Cleveland Browns were I Am.”  He turned back to the congregation and preached his ordination sermon.

Busted!  He was on to us all the time, and he told us off so graciously, we just chuckled, and slowed down, and finally gave ourselves over to the worship of God Almighty.

Super Bowl 52 is a pretty big thing. Matt’s tournament is pretty big in our lives. Chuck’s D&D game is important to him and his pals. My Sunday nap is almost sacred. BUT before all our enjoyments were, I Am.