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If Worship Were Hockey

Now, at the worst possible moment, I dare to utter my heresy.

I’m not a hockey fan.

Indeed, let me commit the ultimate hockey sacrilege: It’s just a game.

I am aware of the Canuck’s standing in the playoffs. I can name most of the key Canuck players. I do hope they win the Stanley Cup. I think of them as “our” team. But I haven’t rearranged my life one iota to make room for any of it.

I know this puts me at odds with most of the world, or at least the province. It probably makes me a less effective pastor: all those in-the-moment sermon illustrations I’m missing out on, all those opportunities to bond with others around the sacred shrine, all those chances to be a man’s man.

I regret all this, but don’t repent of any of it.

I rarely watch hockey (I enjoy playing it) because of my father. He was a fan in the root sense – a fanatic, a zealot. The game flipped a switch in him. It provoked him to rants and tantrums. It awakened in him extravagant jubilation or harrowing grief. He cussed out players and coaches and – especially – referees like they were in the room with him and they were all in the middle of a union strike. He would literally turn purple with rage, or giddy with elation, depending on who just scored.

It all left me cold. Looking back, I see that hockey might have been a place my dad and I met. Instead, it became one more wall between us. I resented how it consumed him. I resented how he displayed more passion for and devotion to the antics of over-paid men than he showed for anything else. He resented, I think, my indifference.

All these years later, and my dad 15 years in the grave, I still get a funny feeling, a sadness and a loneliness, whenever I hear the distinctive hockey anthem strike up.

But there’s one thing I wish: that I was as excited about worshiping God as my dad was about watching hockey – that I was that willing to abandon myself to the moment, to enter it wholly and freely, to inhabit it with total commitment. I wish I sat at seat’s edge, yelling and cheering, for the King to show his glory like my dad did when his team got a breakaway. I wish I leapt to my feet to declare God’s praises as quickly as my dad leapt to his to roar his delight when his team scored. I wish I was that unrestrained in my love for God. My dad’s fanaticism for a mere game taught me what fervor looks like.

It embarrasses me that my worship still falls short of that.

The Youth Director at my church at the once-a-month youth worship service wondered how to engage a handful of bored, listless boys in worship. She stood up at the microphone and asked, “How many of you love the Canucks?” Pretty much all of them.

“And how many of you love God?” Pretty much all of them.

“Do you think tonight you could show that you love God at least as much as you love the Canucks?” It’s that phrase at least that gets me most.



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