Good morning, I'm the Rev Steve Page from St Patrick's Anglican Church, and you're listening to the Daily Devotional moment on CFMQ, 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.
Tonight is the championship game for American College Football. #1-ranked Louisiana State Tigers will battle second-ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide, with the winner claiming this year's title of national champion.
The way US college football works, #1 and #2 always meet in the final. But every once in a while, #1 and #2 meet in the regular-season. It happened this year, back in November, when these same 2 teams, with the same 2 positions in the rankings, met and played a defensive battle that LSU won 9-6 in overtime. Regular-season meetings between #1 and #2 ranked teams only happen every few years.
One such game happened in 1991, when the #1 Florida State Seminoles hosted the #2 ranked University of Miami Hurricanes. Miami struck first, scoring a touchdown on the opening possession of the game, with running back Stephen McGuire crossing the goal line for the TD.
But then Florida State scored the next 16 points, led by a fine game by their quarterback, Casey Weldon, a young man who had never lost a game as a starter. Despite Miami's strong and aggressive defence, Florida State dominated the second and third quarters statistically, but could often had to settle for field goals.
Miami fought back in the 4th quarter. A field goal made it 16-10. They got the ball back, with about 7 minutes to play. Yard by yard, play by play, they moved closer to scoring. But the Seminoles' defence dug in and forced a 4th down. Miami needed a touchdown, a field goal would not help them. On 4th and 6, quarterback Gino Torretta found receiver Horace Copeland, a skillful receiver who would go on to play in the NFL. But on this day, he made only this one, crucial catch, for the first down. Miami scored three plays later, to take a 17-16 lead with 3:01 to play.
Back came Florida State. They worked their way downfield, and got to the 18 yard line. Running back Amp Lee, who would also make the NFL one day, took the handoff from Weldon and picked up a yard. With no timeouts left, quarterback Casey Weldon spiked the ball to stop the clock. They were at the 17 yard line, down by 1 point, with 29 seconds to play. But in the scramble of getting the plays off quickly, Weldon had lost his shoe.
Facing a delay, and looking at a potential game-winning 34-yard field goal attempt, the Florida State coach sent in his kicking team one play early, on 3rd down instead of waiting till 4th down.
They lined up. The snap came back to the holder. He placed the ball down for the kicker, who booted it up, and... wide to the right! No good, by inches!
#2-ranked Miami ran out the final few seconds, and celebrated the huge victory, a key step on their way to winning a share of the national championship that year. It was a team that refused to get discouraged. Sure, they had to play the #1-ranked team, on their home field. They could have become even more discouraged when they fell behind 16-7 in the 3rd quarter. But they dug down and kept doing what they could.
Discouragement is natural, especially when life circumstances gang up on us, and we feel we can't cope, or we've blown it, or we failed. In those times, turn to the Bible and remind yourself that God is with us and is in control. Read stories like Judges 7, when Gideon tackles the vast army of Midian with just 300 men. Or 2nd Chronicles 20v15, when God reassures a fearful and discouraged King Jehoshaphat that the coming battle is in God's hands. He says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
Or when your discouragement turns to weariness and depression, hear Jesus say, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt11:28). May you know the peace and rest and power and encouragement of God today.
For St Patrick's Church, I'm Steve Page.