Recently we had a whole weekend of hockey here in Calgary. I attended three of the four games. An AHL game indoors on Friday, a game with NHL alumni outdoors on Saturday afternoon and then a WHL game outdoors on Family Day Monday. I couldn't afford the NHL outdoor game on Friday, but those three games I did go to seemed to get me to my hockey threshold anyway. It was a media and tourism bonanza for the city. With all the extra attention being paid to the city and all the extra visitors coming to town, I almost had a hockey themed worship service that morning to capitalize on all the excitement. I decided not to though, since I might lose the one sheep I left behind in pursuit of number ninety-nine.
Although I do find inspiration sometimes in the sports pages, I do hesitate to use those analogies in my sermons and other spiritual reflections partly because I would probably alienate a majority of my audience, but also partly to avoid propping up a massive commercial enterprise and a destructive jock culture. Nonetheless, I saw something the other day that immediately made me think.
The headline simply read, "Peter Forsberg (foot) retires." It wasn't particularly newsworthy that a man of his age and physical condition would decide to hang up his skates. It was slightly interesting that this happened after only playing two games after a successful comeback bid. It was too bad that not enough energy was spent at that time giving tribute to his remarkable career.
What caught my eye though was the formatting of the headline. It is now so commonplace to put a player's injury status beside their name that this even works its way into headlines. It used to be that you would see at the bottom of a post-game stats sheet a list of players who didn't play and then a brief explanation of why. Then, partly because teams needed to register their injured players as such, it became part of their status. Still though, that status was only declared in statistical pages and summary information lists.
I wonder what would happen if this applied to other aspects of life. Certain people already have to deal with this stigma. Prisoners, ex-cons, addicts, etc all carry a badge of shame with them where almost everyone close to them knows the worst thing that they've ever done. I wonder if a healthy church could work this way as well, and yes I said healthy.
We only become Christians by acknowledging our past sins. Where else should someone feel comfortable to share their spiritual highs and lows than in a loving and supportive spiritual community? Knowing each other's flaws then, in that context, is not a sign of each other's weakness but a reminder to encourage each other, a reminder of the forgiveness we have all received, and a reminder of how great our God is that can accomplish anything through imperfect vessels like us.