Bishop Shannon once advised me that it is important to end each day doing something that brings you joy. During my first year as a chaplain at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, there has been much in which to rejoice, but one of the greatest joys of this particular call has been coaching. Fortunately, coaching falls at the end of the daily schedule at school.
As I reflect on the particular vocational call of coaches, I have been asking myself, “What does it mean to be committed to something?”
This past weekend I went with the St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes boys varsity lacrosse team on an overnight trip to Richmond during which the team won a semifinal game on Friday and then the championship game in the Virginia state tournament on Saturday. We drove back to Alexandria, unpacked the bus and went home to rest, only to meet at the school again on Sunday afternoon for the IAC league championship game. Unfortunately, after winning four games in five days, we lost that final game on the sixth day.
The entire weekend had particular meaning, as it would be the last weekend that our head coach would be coaching the Saints team after devoting 14 years to the program. In balancing the high of winning a state championship and the low of losing a league championship within 24 hours, head coach Andy Taibl told the boys that it does not matter whether we win or lose. What matters is that each member of that team committed, wholeheartedly, to the team. To com-mit to something is almost a guarantee of feeling the pain of loss at some point. Even so, to not commit at all is to never experience life.
A high school lacrosse team, even at an Episcopal school, might not be an explicit Christian community, but the connection between a life committed to developing the skills necessary to play a team sport and a life committed to developing the virtues of faith, hope and love in the name of Jesus and within a community is there.
“What does it mean to be committed to a life of discipleship to Jesus in community?” Just like a sports team, discipleship in community requires constant practice. Furthermore, and most importantly, disciple-ship in community requires taking the risk of feeling the pain of loss. If we commit to each other even in the love of Christ, we will surely disappoint or potentially even harm one another. Yet to commit to knowing Jesus in the fellowship of others will raise us to life time and time again.
Significantly, the Gospel of Matthew connects a re-envisioning of family with the risk-taking action of losing our lives to find them. Matthew writes, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39) The Saints lacrosse team reminded me this weekend that as Christians we are called to commit to each other like teammates committed to winning a championship. Win or lose, we will find Christ in the commitment.
By: The Rev. Chris Miller
The Rev. Chris Miller is the assistant upper school chaplain and head JV lacrosse coach at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, a Church School of the Diocese of Virginia. He graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in May 2015 and was ordained a priest by Bp. Johnston in December 2015.