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 world of Sports.
Sports are always at their most exciting when the game comes down to the final seconds, or the last at-bat, or the final hole of the final round. And the bigger the stage, the more exciting and tense these final moments are.
The Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world. This year's is just around the corner. Every year a hundred million people watch the Super Bowl. Not everyone stays to the end of a blow-out, but the close games are riveting.
That was especially the case in Super Bowl X in 1976, between the defending-champion and heavily favoured Pittsburgh Steelers and the underdog Dallas Cowboys.
The game went down to the wire. Dallas scored first, when Roger Staubach connected with Drew Pearson for a touchdown. But behind Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers tied the game at 7 a few minutes later.
A field goal put Dallas up 10-7 at the half, a score that held through the end of the 3rd quarter.
But the Steelers were known for a ferocious defence, nicknamed the Steel Curtain. And they turned the game in Pittsburgh's favour. They blocked a punt through the end zone for a 2-point safety, cutting the lead to 10-9. Then, as the momentum swung to the Steelers, they added a pair of field goals and a long touchdown by Lynn Swann with just 3 minutes to play, opening up a huge 21-10 lead.
But Staubach led the Cowboys back down the field in just 5 plays. He hit rookie receiver Percy Howard for a 34-yard touchdown, making it 21-17. It was the first and only catch Percy Howard would ever make in an NFL game. Someday I'm sure I'll turn that little bit of trivia into an illustration. But not today. Because the game wasn't over.
Dallas failed to recover their onside kick, but the Steelers could not run out the clock. Dallas got the ball back with just 1:22 left, and had one last chance to pull off the come-from-behind upset. They moved to the Pittsburgh 38-yard line, but Pittsburgh safety Glen Edwards intercepted the ball in the end zone as time expired.
Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl! Dallas almost pulled off the big comeback. But almost doesn't count for much in the Super Bowl. The cliche says that “almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Almost winning the Super Bowl is not the same as winning it.
Life, unlike football, is more of a mixed bag when it comes to almost. Sometimes, almost is ok. I almost hit that deer, but thank God, it got out of the way! Or almost can give us the encouragement to try again, and maybe achieve our goals and dreams next time.
But other times almost is a failure or a disappointment. For example: The rich young ruler in the Gospel of Luke chapter 18 almost became a follower of Jesus, but walked away. Following Jesus was too hard for him, and he chickened out and went home. King Agrippa in Acts chapter 25 and 26 almost became a Christian, but turned away when the moment of decision came.
Such examples are sad. God does not want us to almost follow Christ. To almost believe. To almost trust him. If we almost do good things for others, or if we almost spend time with God in prayer and with other followers at a local church, almost but not quite, in such cases Almost is a sad word.
My prayer is that you will really and truly seek to follow God with your whole heart and mind and life. That you won't turn away like the rich young ruler, or run out of time like the Dallas Cowboys. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said. No Almost about it.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.