Good morning, I'm the Rev'd Steven Page for St Patrick's Anglican Church. This month, our radio devotionals, sponsored by the Hudson Bay Ministerial, are using images from the world of sports to illustrate our spiritual and Scriptural topics.
Today, I'm wearing my Roughriders jersey, because I'm a big fan. The Riders have much to be proud of, from their three Grey Cup championships, to having the best and most rabid fan-base in the country. But today I want to draw a lesson from a moment that we are not so proud of.
Let me take you back to Nov 29, 2009, the 97th Grey Cup, played in Calgary. The opponent is the Montreal Alouettes. Some of you already know where I'm going with this, don't you!
Well, the Riders dominated most of the game. They led 17-3 at the half, on an Andy Fantuz touchdown and three Luca Congi field goals. Saskatchewan pushed the lead to 27-11 with a Darian Durant 16-yard run 4 and a half minutes into the fourth quarter. We all know that scoring can happen very quickly in the CFL, but things looked real promising! A 16-point lead going into the final 10 minutes of the game. The Alouettes, though, were a very good team. Their 15-3 won-lost record was no accident. And veteran quarterback Anthony Calvillo led them to two touchdowns, closing the gap to 27-25 with just under 2 minutes to play.
If only the Riders could have run out the clock. But their offence sputtered and went 2-and-out, so they punted the ball back to Montreal. Calvillo then drove Montreal to the Riders' 36-yard line. With just seconds remaining, Montreal place-kicker Damon Duval came on to try for a game-winning field goal. But when his kick sailed wide right, and the Rider receiver ran it out of the end zone, the celebration began! The Riders had won the Grey Cup! .... But wait, what's that little coloured piece of cloth over there on the field? Yes, a penalty on the Riders. Too many men on the field! They needed 12 men on the field but had 13. Someone had forgotten their assignment, or someone had forgotten to count noses. Well, the penalty moved the ball 10 yards closer, and on the do-over, Duval hit the Grey Cup winning kick, to the horror of the Riders and their fans.
I was please that the team refused to point any fingers at any individual in the height of the emotional reaction after the game. Maybe they remembered a few years earlier, when kicker Paul McCallum missed a gimme field goal in a playoff game against the BC Lions. The villain was obvious that day, and some hooligans took their revenge by egging his house and dumping a load of manure in his driveway. None of that happened after the Grey Cup, as the team refused to blame anyone. And maybe the blame was widely shared, since most any coach or player involved could have noticed that the formation for the play did not look right, with an extra body around.
If it was the job of any one or several people, the job of counting noses on the field was forgotten. And the result was an embarrassing and very costly penalty. We can, of course, forgive them, and I think most of us have. After all, it's only human to forget something in the midst of stress or the excitement of winning a championship. Why sometimes in our lives we all too easily forget God.
We get busy with work or skating or family or any number of other things and God gets bumped from 1st place in our lives to 2nd, to 3rd, to 103rd. We stop praying or reading the Bible or going to weekly worship services. We stop listening to God. God knew this would happen. Way back in the Old Testament (Dt6:10-12), God told his people, “be careful that you do not forget the Lord.” Sadly, how easy it is! But when you realize that you have been forgetting God, leaving God out of your daily lives, that is the time to turn back to God, renew your commitment to daily prayer and study, to weekly worship, to participating in God's mission in the world. As in the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15), God longs to see you return, and will welcome you with open arms. Open arms, not a 10-yard penalty. Remember God today, and return to him. ... For St Patrick's Church, I'm the Rev'd Steven Page.