“But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!” -Joshua 24:15
I know something about loyalty. I understand the concept of unwavering support through thick and thin. I know what commitment means over the long term and how costly it can be when we really mean it. You see, I’m a Houston Astros fan. We go way back, perhaps even back to 1888 when the Houston Buffaloes minor league team was formed. The most visionary early Rector of Trinity Church, the congregation I served in Houston from 1999-2006, was the Revered Robert E. Lee Craig, from Jackson Mississippi. Craig insisted the church literally move from a hidden dead-in street back in the early 1900s to “face the world more prominently.” He believed the church should be the most important thing, the most important community and cause in a city; therefore, it should be located somewhere folks would notice it, so that the faith community members would be reminded of its significance every time they worshiped. He knew it was a costly proposition, but it would be worth it. The congregation believed in his vision, and the church building was literally loaded onto a wagon and pulled by a team of mules to its present-day location, right on Main Street in the heart of the city of Houston. The Reverend Craig was a staunch Houston Buffaloes fan. He attended the games as often as he could, and I’ll bet the Buffaloes even made it into his sermons! I don’t know if he lived long enough to see the legendary Dizzy Dean pitch the Buffs all the way to a Texas League pennant in 1931, but if he did, I know he was cheering loudly!
My older brother still owns, and proudly displays, the only Houston Buffs pennant I have ever seen. As a young boy, he would take the bus to Buffs Stadium, and later take a different bus to Colt Stadium to watch the Colt 45s play. Colt Stadium was a temporary home until the Astrodome opened in 1965; it was then that the team was renamed the Astros, paying homage to the NASA space center in Houston. I remember my first visit to the dome when I was five years old: I was in awe at the “8th Wonder of the World.” And I cheered for the Astros from my very first game! There were more losing seasons and “down years” than I can even remember, but I never wavered in my loyalty and in my support. I was at Turner Field in Atlanta, driving all night from Houston, on October 11th, 2004, when the Astros finally won a playoff series, beating the Braves 12-3 after Roy Oswalt pitched a gem. I was in St. Louis the next year when the Astros finally beat the Cardinals and went to the World Series. I was at the longest World Series game ever played on October 23rd, 2005, when the Chicago White Sox beat the Astros in the 14th inning on a home run by former Astro Geoff Blum. The game lasted 5 hours and 41 minutes. Not once did I consider leaving early. This year, I plan to be at games 6 and 7 in Los Angeles. It will cost me a fortune, but not as much as what I’ve spent to keep my dog, Wili, alive. When you love someone or something, and are committed to it, loyal forever, it really doesn’t matter what it costs.
The same is true of faith. Faith that really matters means loyalty and commitment, though thick and thin. There will be losing seasons and down times. There will be years when the stadium seems empty, and people change their allegiances. Even in faith communities you will sometimes be frustrated by management decisions and tempted to quit supporting your team. But in the end, being a true fan, as being a true person of faith, makes all the difference. Just ask a Cubs fan and all those who hung in there for a century! Last year, I celebrated as the Cubs won the World Series. I hope to celebrate this World Series as well, but this time with an Astros victory. But what happens if they lose? In the words of the old spiritual, “Done Made My Vow!” I’m a Houston Astros fan to the very end.