Here’s a < slightly updated > editorial I wrote back in 2010, published in the Vancouver Sun three days before Canada won the Men’s Hockey Olympic gold medal. Seems relevant four years later…
“This Sunday a sacred ritual will play out.
And the faithful will gather from sea to sea to sea. Congregating on the edges of our couches, eyes glued to our sets, we’ll get caught up in an ecstasy; lost in a glory. And for a few rapturous moments we’ll experience what can only be described as heaven on earth.
With glowing hearts we’ll vicariously enter into a larger story; something bigger than ourselves. We’ll clasp our hands in prayer with visions of victory. If only we believe. On this most hallowed day – God willing – our Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team will go for gold. And for a brief magical moment hockey will be holy.
In recent years many have made the connection between spirituality and sport. Some claim that sport is the new religion. They may not be far off. Think about it, where will most Canadians experience feelings of transcendence this Sunday, in a third row pew near a stained glass window or in the lower bowl at the < Bolshoi Ice Palace > as Sydney Crosby blasts one home?
Where will we experience vibrant community, at church or with a group of family and friends at our local pub? Where will we celebrate the gift of our amazing human bodies; our astonishing stick handling capacities, our flying down the boards legs and our world class play-making minds? Where will we most effectively learn how to grind it out and persevere, work through our losses or finish well?
Surely this Sunday is much more than just a game. This gold medal match is a microcosm of a broader cultural shift from the institution of church to sport; especially here in Canada. And the all-too-human traits we’re expressing are, in fact, deeply spiritual. Where else do we express this much faith, hope and worship?
Which makes you wonder, why does this game matter so much? What’s going on inside of us? What are we searching for?
When I posed the question to Globe and Mail sports writer Roy MacGregor, he said, “Canadians aren’t known for much, even the things we should be known for. Americans say basketball was invented in Springfield (it was, but BY A CANADIAN). They say the telephone was invented there (it wasn’t — but HERE, BY A CANADIAN). We invented hockey and no one disputes this. We embraced it as our national game and we are one of a few countries where only one game matters above all others, hockey. The Olympics gives us the chance to have the world notice that Canadians truly own this game they invented… Our specific yearnings and desires are simple… hockey, I believe, allows Canadians to show the world the face Canadians wish the world to see in Canada: resilient, tenacious, teamwork[ing], hardworking, determined, filled with heart, ultimately triumphant — and yet humble in victory (After the wild piling on and cheering, of course).”
Amen to that.
What country wouldn’t want this kind of recognition? Everyone yearns to be known for who they really are. It’s an innate human desire – and it’s now playing out for scores of countries on < Sochi’s > global stage. Where does that desire come from? Why is it there?
When I read MacGregor’s words, they reminded me of God’s foundational calling for humanity, to “be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28). In the Judeo-Christian worldview, it’s understood that a big part of that “filling” involves the creation of culture. And a big part of culture is sport. So when Canadians invent a game like hockey, we’re doing a good godly thing; something unique to our cultural, sociological and geographic context.
When we come up with a cool game like this – conceived in a land of ice – we’re creating something that, in a sense, only we could create. Hockey is a unique product of Canada’s divine cultural calling (one of its best).
This game is part of what God created us for, a cultural gift that we made, mastered, and now share with the world. And it’s a gift that gives us life.
We’re made for that sense of awe we feel when < Ryan Getzlaf > threads a tape-to-tape pass to an on the fly < Jamie Benn >, who then softly feeds the puck to < Corey Perry > who one-times it into the top corner. We’re made for that head shaking sense of disbelief we feel after < Cary Price > miraculously stonewalls yet another opponent. We’re made for that feeling of pride in knowing that these are our boys, playing our game, in front of the world – in front of God.
So when we experience the game this Sunday, perhaps we’re doing what we should be doing on a Sunday; honouring God through the celebration of one of his best cultural creations; the game of hockey (courtesy of those Canadians).”
And here’s video of the sermon I preached that Sunday.