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 and spirituality from the wonderful and sometimes weird world of Sports.
1986: The Edmonton Oilers are in the middle of their dynasty years, and have won the past 2 Stanley Cups. Come playoff time, the mighty Oilers were battling in the second round with their arch-rivals the Calgary Flames. The teams knew each other well, and played each other tough. So while the standings said it should have been an Edmonton cake-walk, the series still came down to game 7.
The Flames struck first, jumping out in fact to a 2-0 lead. But Edmonton would not be denied, and netted a pair of third-period goals to tie things up. As the clock ticked down, it looked like a sudden-death game 7 overtime was likely.
With less than 6 minutes to play in the 2-2 game, Calgary dumped the puck into the Oiler zone. Rookie defence-man Steve Smith retrieved the puck from behind the net. Rather than carrying it out himself, Smith tried a pass out to his defensive partner.
But disaster struck! The pass hit the foot of Oiler goalie Grant Fuhr and bounced backward, right into the Oiler net. Goal for Calgary! Since no Calgary player had had anything to do with the goal, the officials had a quick huddle and awarded credit for the goal to Flames forward Perry Berezan. Even though he was nowhere near Smith or Fuhr, Berezan was the closest Flame to the play.
The result of this bizarre goal was that Calgary won the game 3-2 and sent the champion Oilers home to practice their golf swings. It was a careless play for Steve Smith, one that he would desperately like to have back. But he could not take it back.
Like hockey, life does not allow us to take things back or change the past. Sure, some sports have instant-replay, but that is not changing the past, just looking at it in slow-motion from a dozen different angles to understand what really happened.
God wants us to live our lives with care and attention, to get things right the first time so that we won't wish we could change the past. According to one of the Old Testament prophets, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways.'” In other words, don't be a reactor, ready to blow by reacting to things, but shape your heart and your mind and your life according to how God would have you live. Or the book of Ephesians in the New Testament tells us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have receive;” and “Be imitators of God;” and finally “Be very careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise people.” Not so much a call to live thoughtfully as a challenge to live intentionally and wisely.
But best of all is this: while we can't change the past, we can forgive the past. No matter how carefully and thoughtfully and wisely we try to live, we mess up from time to time. But in God there is forgiveness. God's forgiveness offered to us; our forgiveness offered to others who do us wrong; and their forgiveness of us. You know, in some ways forgiveness is even better. It means that, rather than an ability to change the past, with forgiveness we have the ability to change the future! By truly forgiving someone, that grudge or that hurt fades into the past and we get to live a future without that pain or guilt or anger. “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Amen.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.