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. Let's talk some more hockey today.
I know, we're a little early for the NHL playoffs yet, but let me take you back to the Stanley Cup finals of 1996. Can you remember who played for the Cup that year?
The Colorado Avalanche were at the height of their dominant years, and in the finals they met the Florida Panthers and their hordes of rat-throwing fans. The Avalanche took the first 3 games, and were looking for the sweep in game 4 in Florida.
The first period was a close-fought, defensive battle. Patrick Roy stopped all 10 shots for Colorado, while Florida's goalie, John Vanbiesbrouck stoned the Avs at the other end. Nothing-nothing.
Florida poured it on in the 2nd period, controlling the game more often than not, but could not put the puck past Roy. After two, it was still tied at zero.
As the 3rd period wore on, the tension built. The way these defences were playing, a single goal could do it. A bad bounce, a deflection, anything could hand the Cup to the Avalanche, or send the series back to Colorado for game 5. But when the buzzer sounded, neither team had scored. Both goalies had shut out their opponents for 60 minutes.
Well, hockey playoff ties lead to sudden-death overtime, one of the most exciting situations in any sport. After a break, both teams skated out for a nail-biting overtime period. But after another 20 minutes of hockey the score was still 0-0.
A second overtime started. Maybe Colorado was wearing down, because Florida peppered Patrick Roy with 18 shots in overtime #2. But again, neither team could score. Nothing-nothing after 100 minutes of hockey.
Finally, 4 1/2 minutes into the third overtime, Colorado's Uwe Krupp netted the Stanley Cup winning goal. The clincher finished 1-0 for the Avalanche. And while both goalies played an amazing game, Patrick Roy stood out. He shut out the Panthers through the entire 5+ periods of play, and blocked all 63 shots they took. What an incredible defender of the net he was!
The Bible often portrays God as a defender in our lives. I think of Psalm 18, where the poet writes “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, in whom I take refuge; my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” That's just one verse, but it is saturated with images of God as one who defends the weak, the helpless, the faithful. And there are many others in the Bible that also talk about God as a defender.
Imagine God as a fortress, a stronghold or a shield. These are pictures of God as a reliable and safe place to hide in or behind, when life is throwing us curveballs or trying to swamp us or toss us about. As when Jesus spoke and stilled the storm in Luke 8, so God is there for us when things go wrong. When we get bad health news about us or a loved one. When we're thrown out of work. When a friend betrays a trust. When the rumour mill gets the story all wrong and makes us look bad. In the midst of it all, God is there, ready to defend us if we're willing to enter God's fortress.
Some of the imagery in that verse is also offensive. God is my deliverer, the horn of my salvation. Those are pictures of God being more than a refuge and defender, but playing an active role in bringing about justice for the poor, the oppressed, the needy. God is both our great defender, even better at defending than Patrick Roy, and on our side to deliver and save. Thank God today for his presence in your life, and turn to him when life threatens to bowl you over.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.