Good morning, I'm the Rev Steve Page from St Patrick's Anglican Church, and you're listening to the Daily Devotional moment, sponsored by the Hudson Bay Ministerial.
This month, I'm drawing our images of Christian faith from the world of Sports.
Now, about a year ago, Sidney Crosby got hurt. He's the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar and Team Canada Olympic hero, a highly skilled skater, shooter and passer. But in two games in a row last year, he took hard hits to the head. The result was a concussion severe enough that he was out of NHL action for about 10 months.
It all reminded me of another superstar player for the Penguins, whose return from injury inspired his team. Mario Lemieux had a great career (up there with Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe), although it was a bit plagued toward the end by back trouble.
But in 1992, his Pittsburgh Penguins were the defending Stanley Cup champs. In game 2 of the second round of the playoffs, against the New York Rangers, Adam Graves of the Rangers slashed Super Mario, and broke his hand. While Lemieux often would play hurt, this injury, like Sidney Crosby's, was more serious and he was expected to be out for a few weeks.
In his absence, the Penguins defeated the Rangers 4 games to 2, but it was harder and the games were closer than you'd expect given the differences in the teams.
To everyone's surprise, Lemieux missed only 5 games. He missed the rest of the Rangers series and the first game in the semi-finals against the Boston Bruins. But he returned to the ice for game 2 against the Bruins. And what a return! Lemieux scored twice and added an assist as the Penguins won 5-2.
The team was inspired, and went on to sweep the Bruins to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. In the finals, they continued to roll, and swept the Chicago Blackhawks 4 games to none, to repeat as champions. Back-to-back winners! Lemieux, for his inspiring and dominant play, won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
Crosby and Lemieux both had impressive and inspiring returns.
You know, sometimes we need to return, too. The way we live, the decisions we make, the things we do or choose not to do, lead us farther and farther away from God and from those closest to us. We stop paying attention to God, or praying or reading the Bible or worshiping at church. We do things that drive a wedge between ourselves and our friends or family.
God calls us to come back, to return. That's the true meaning of repent, to turn around, and return to God. In Isaiah 55 (an awesome chapter of the Bible, you should read it if you are not familiar with it!) the prophet says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Or in Zechariah chapter 1, “'Return to me,' says the Lord, 'and I will return to you.”
What you will find as you return to God is that he has been there all along, eagerly waiting for you to turn back to him, and acknowledge and follow him. And as you return to God, and get right with God again, you will find that you can again be close with those you love, that the wedge or the gap that separated you is now gone. Thanks be to God.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.