Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vancouver, behold your gods!

I say that in jest, but at the same time, its true. And being Canadian, I know its not just Vancouver that worships hockey, but the whole country. I will reluctantly admit even I choose to worship hockey over God sometimes. This year, the Vancouver Canucks playoffs motto is "This Is What We Live For," and I shook my head at it when I first saw it. But I have to agree with it because it is a very accurate statement.

I was six years old when the Canucks last made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and all I can remember from that is playing outside on the jungle gym at the church barbecue with all the other kids, while all the adults were inside watching Game 7 against the Rangers. And then I remember me and my sister egging our mother on to honk the car horn on the drive home as we passed by groups of people on all sides of the roads, waving Canuck flags and white towels. It was fun. I didn't quite understand or love the game of hockey completely, but I understood the spirit of the game that drives people together.

Fast forward to the 2010-2011 NHL season where I'm able to follow along and watch almost all 82 Canuck games on TV in their entirety. I can do this now without guilt because I'm done school and I don't have homework nagging at me after the game is finished. I enjoy and revel in the win of the team's success. I silently mope around after a trouncing by an old playoff rival. At the back of my mind is the top prize in all of hockey and how maybe this year our home team will win it.

And then the Canucks lead their division in points.
And then they finish best in the Western Conference.
And then they end the season as best in the entire 30-team league.
And then we finally knock out Chicago with a devastating Burrows OT goal.
And then we beat Nashville.
And then we defeat San Jose.
And now we’re facing Boston for the Stanley Cup.

And today all of Vancouver, all of BC, and a lot of Canada (well…some of you hate us, but hey, it’s our time, 8^p) is waiting, waiting, waiting for the puck to drop shortly after 5:00pm PST on June 1, 2011 for Game 1.

And that is the beauty of hockey. That is the beauty of sports. It is a unifier of gender, age, race, and religion. All people can come together to cheer on and celebrate one team, one goal, and one prize. Strangers can high-five each other on the street. Smiles can be exchanged from across the room at the sight of someone wearing the same numbered jersey as you are. It’s an exciting and optimistic time for Vancouver that matches and arguably surpasses the hype of the Olympics and Team Canada’s quest for gold in men’s hockey last year.

And yet part of me is saddened at the sudden madness that one common goal can generate. The amount of money individuals are willing to spend on one ticket to a home game are now averaging a month’s rent (~$1000, give or take a few hundred). Canucks merchandise is flying off store shelves. Diehard fans are decorating their cars more elaborately with decals, posters, figurines, and gigantic team flags that probably slow them down when they drive on the highway. It is an idol. The Canucks are an even greater object of worship than they once were, in a city that desperately needs something greater. I am saddened at myself for often choosing to worship them also.

But I am confident that if Vancouver wins the Stanley Cup, it can be a tool for the glory of God. Yes, the hockey lover in me wants Vancouver to win it and I’m fairly sure it might cause more idol worship for a time, but I am ever so hopeful that hockey and sports in general can be a captivating stage for the name of Jesus to be made famous. It can be a stage for the Gospel to be proclaimed.

Sports is a recognizable and influential part of life world wide, more so in societies that have disposable incomes. The more I read (albeit, still very slowly) Recreation and Sports Ministry the more excited I am at the potential that hockey in this city can be used to reach people who have not been open to God before. I am quite certain of this because all the truths I’m reading in the aforementioned textbook are culturally relevant, and have Scripture to back up its points. Seriously, if you are thinking about how sports can be used as an effective tool in your church or ministry, this book is a beautiful guide, and you need to get it. Sports ministries are not a new thing. Reaching people for God, through recreation, is an “idea” well over a hundred years old and more.

So, as the Vancouver Canucks and the millions of fans supporting them, prepare to give Beantown a meaningful lesson in Canadian hockey, I will hope and cheer and pray. I will also continually hope that maybe in the near future, member(s) of the Vancouver Canucks might be able to speak in a church or other venue about their personal faith in Jesus. I can only imagine the kinds of people who might be drawn to that kind of event who may have never been to church before. And how sweet would that be to have the Stanley Cup up there beside the speakers, with a Bible resting inside it?

Go Canucks Go!

Saw gas for 140.8¢/litre last last last Sunday. Gadzooks. Now its about 135ish average?