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Jan 27, 2012

Jan 27 Radio Msg: Sittler's Big Game

January is Steve's turn for daily devotionals on CFMQ-FM. We'll post the text and a video version each day for those interested in sports and Christian faith but who cannot catch them on the radio.  

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. Today, let's go back to the 1970s and Darryl Sittler and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sittler had a Hall-of-Fame career with the Leafs. In the 1975-76 season, he was named their Captain, and he responded with 41 goals and 59 assists, becoming the 1st Leaf to reach the 100-point mark in one season. Two years later, he topped that total with 117 points on 45 goals and 72 assists, a total that trailed only Guy Lafleur and Bryan Trottier in the league.

But Sittler did not have a great relationship with his bosses, especially team owner Harold Ballard. Later in his career, their relationship would get so bad that he removed the captain's C from his jersey, walked out on the team due to depression, and demanded a trade.
Even in his breakthrough 100-point season, he was sharply criticized by Ballard for his slow start. And while he would finish with more than 40 goals, he had only 5 through the first quarter of the season. For a skilled scorer like Sittler, it seemed like he was asleep for the first couple months.
But he was certainly awake on the night of Feb 7, a home game against the Boston Bruins.
In that game, Sittler set the record for most points in a single game. It started well enough for Sittler, who picked up two assists in the opening period. Then in the middle period, Sittler scored a hat trick, and added two more assists. His 7 points left him just one shy of the record, with 20 more minutes of hockey still to play.
He netted another 3 goals in the 3rd period, finishing with 6 goals and 4 assists for a record-breaking 10 points in one game. It's a total that still stands today; no one else has had more than 8 points in one NHL game. Not Gretzky; he reached 8 twice but no more; not Lemieux, who was the most recent player to reach 8 points, back in 1989. Darryl Sittler's record from 1976 still stands today.
Sometimes Sittler got a lucky bounce, such as when one pass he made out from behind the net bounced off one skate, changed direction, hit another skate, and trickled past poor Bruins goalie Dave Reece and into the net.
But other times Sittler had to be awake and alert to an opportunity to score, like when he blasted one past a snoozing goalie from just inside the blue line.
You know, the Bible uses the contrast between being asleep and awake to spur us on to greater faith and greater action in our Christian living.
Saint Paul, in Ephesians 5:14, urges his hearers by quoting a saying they would have been familiar with: “Wake up, sleeper, / rise from the dead, / and Christ will shine on you.” Or in his letter to the Romans (13:11) he writes, “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” It's part of a longer challenge to live in ways that please God, rather than living for ourselves.
And, most famously, on the night that he was betrayed and turned over to the authorities, Jesus was in a garden praying. According to Matthew 26, at a time when he really needed the support and prayers of his followers and friends, they could not stay awake: “Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'”
“The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” That sums up a lot of the times that we do things we shouldn't, or fail to do things we should. Darryl Sittler was not literally sleeping through the first quarter of the 75-76 season, and you are likely not literally sleeping your way through life. But you may need to wake up, O sleeper, and devote more time, energy and prayer to living as God calls us to.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.

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