Go for the Gold part 4
Hockey: Some Things We Do Together
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 26, 2006

 

Well, several weeks ago as I was planning this “Go for the Gold” message series to correspond with the Olympics, I decided that today would be the day I would talk about hockey. Little did I know then how painful an experience it would become. I mean, at the time, I fully expected that Team Canada would be playing at this very moment in the Gold Medal game.

But alas, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals, and our nation has been in uproar ever since. How could it happen? We’re Canada. Hockey is our game. We have the greatest players and the greatest fans in the world. But our team was sent packing before the medals were even determined.

Now, I know some of you are hockey fans. And I know some of you really aren’t. You really should get that checked out. And there may even be some of you who don’t really know if you’re a fan or not. So to help you find out, here are the…
 

Top Ten Signs You are a Hockey Fan:

10. You punish your kids with “minors,” “majors,” and “misconducts.”
9. When you come to a traffic signal and the light turns red, you get really excited and start cheering.
8. You consider the old Forum in Montreal a place of worship.
7. You keep a picture of the Stanley Cup in your wallet in front of the picture of your family.
6. You call a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame a “pilgrimage.”
5. You think the Canadian National Anthem is the theme from “Hockey Night in Canada.”
4. Every March 31, you send Gordie Howe a birthday card. Yet you can’t even remember your own family members’ birthdays.
3. All your kids are either named Gordie, Bobby or Wayne.
2. Every time you see the name “Roy” you automatically pronounce it “Wah.”
1. You think the proper way to spell the plural of “leaf” is “leafs.”
 

Okay, so maybe that helped, maybe it didn’t. Either way, we’re still talking about hockey this morning. And more specifically, we’re going to look at hockey, and see what we can learn about what it means to be part of a team. Because you and I, here at Sunrise, are part of a team. Two weeks ago we looked at Alpine Skiing and we discovered that there are some things we do alone. We are individually responsible for our own salvation, our own obedience, our own attitude, and our own witness. Today, we’re going to talk about hockey and being part of a team, and how there are things we do together. It’s true for a hockey team, and it’s true for us here at Sunrise.

Now, every Hockey team has an owner. Someone has to put up the cash. Even in the Olympics, the country puts up the cash, and so can be considered the owner. If you are a Christian you have an owner, as well… God. The Bible tells us…

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)
Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

So in order to be on the team God has to be your owner.

Every team also has a General Manager. In Hockey the General Manager is the man in charge of the Players. He recruits them and is in charge of their behaviour. And he manages the affairs of the team. Well, for you and me, that’s what Jesus does.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT)
Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly.

In order to be on the team Jesus needs to be the manager of your life, is he in control of your behaviour?

And third, every team has a Coach. What is a coach? A coach is the one who instructs, guides, instructs, and trains the players. For you and for me, that’s the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 (NLT)
But when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative—and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you.

Is God your owner? Is Jesus your Manager? Is the Holy Spirit your coach? If not, why not? You can set all of that in place today. You can accept that God has bought you at a price, you can decide to sign up on His team under the Management of Jesus, and you can receive the instruction and guidance that the Holy Spirit is offering for your life.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what makes a team successful. What are the ingredients of a healthy team? I’m going to give you four, and you can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks. Let’s go. The first ingredient of a healthy team is…

 

Ingredients of a Healthy Team:

1. The Team Has a Purpose

The purpose of a Hockey Team is to win. Team Canada didn’t get the memo, but that is the purpose of a team. To win the game, to win the series, to win the playoffs, to win the championship, to win the Gold. Not the bronze, not the silver… the Gold. As Wayne Gretzky said…

“Every time you put on a Canadian uniform and play for Team Canada, anything but gold is not acceptable.”
~ Wayne Gretzky, manager of Team Canada

So a team has the purpose of winning. The church has a purpose as well; Jesus told His followers what that purpose is when He said…

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

That’s the purpose of the Church… to bring people into the Kingdom of God and teach them what it means to really follow Jesus. That’s what every Church should be about. As a local church here at Sunrise, we have expressed that purpose this way…

The Mission of Sunrise:
Sunrise Wesleyan Church exists to introduce individuals to Christ and to help them grow through meaningful relationships, authentic worship, and solid biblical truth.

That was the purpose six years ago when Sunrise was just a dream… that was the purpose 3 ½ years ago when we launched, and that’s still our purpose today. And it will remain our primary purpose. The wording may change from time to time, but the core meaning must never change.

That’s why we exist. That is our purpose. That is our goal. Anything else we may do may be admirable, but if it distracts us from this primary goal, then we have lost our purpose and we won’t be doing what we are called to do.

In fact, right now I want to ask you to do something. Do this… close your eyes for a minute. Close your eyes, and now picture someone you know who doesn’t know Jesus. It might be a family member, or maybe a friend, or a neighbour. Maybe someone you work with. Can you see them? Okay, I’m going to pray, and I want you to pray with me. You don’t have to do it out loud, but pray. Pray something like this…

Father, I thank you for the new life you offer through Jesus. And I thank you for the guidance you offer through the Holy Spirit. And I ask for your guidance today. Help me to reach my friend for You. May my light shine bright, and may I have the courage to speak to them about you. In Jesus name, amen.

 

2. The Team Has a Strategy

Hockey teams win by having a strategy they follow. They don’t just go out there and do whatever. Well, some teams do that, but the successful teams will have a strategy. They’ll have a plan. When the players get on the ice, they know what their coach expects of them and they will follow that strategy, whether it’s an offensive one or a defensive one.

The purpose of an offensive strategy is to score as many goals as possible, and of course the goal of a defensive strategy is to prevent as many goals as possible. In the NHL right now, the two best offensive teams are the Ottawa Senators and the Carolina Hurricanes. Ottawa leads the league with 223 goals and Carolina is next with 215 goals. The best defensive team is also the Senators, which has allowed the fewest goals scored against them with 137, and it’s a tie for the next best defensive team… the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers have both limited their opponents to 142 goals. And what’s interesting is that all of these teams I have mentioned are leading their division. They have a strategy, they’re following it, and they’re winning.

Now, historically the church has played a defensive game. We try to prevent the devil from scoring goals. And this defensiveness has even led to fear… we’re afraid to lose what we’ve got. So instead of trying to build the Kingdom of God, we’ve opted to play it safe. But that was not the strategy that Jesus mapped out for the Church. He expects us to play an offensive game. Jesus said…

Matthew 16:18 (KJV)
“…I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”

Notice that the church is on the offensive; hell is on the defensive. Jesus also said…

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere--in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It’s time that the Church stopped taking the defensive and began to play a more offensive game in order to win. We can’t simply wait for people to come to us, we need to be going to them. How do we do that? It needs to start personally. Who did you picture in your mind? Who was it that you prayed for? And now ask yourself, “What can I do to reach that person?”

 

3. The Team has a Role for Every Member

In hockey, you typically have a goalie, 2 defensemen, and 3 forwards on the ice for your team. So each player plays a specific position and performs a specific task. For example, the goalies job is to keep the puck out of the net, plain and simple. And being goalie is a very important job, but not everyone can be goalie and not everyone wants to be goalie.

Listen to what former New York Rangers goaltender Gump Worsley said in comparing the profession of goaltending with other jobs. He said…

“The only job worse is a javelin catcher at a track-and-field meet.”
~ former New York Rangers goaltender Gump Worsley

Jacques Plante, the first NHL Goalie to wear a mask… the guy you’ve seen in the heritage commercials… expressed a similar thought when he asked…

“How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?”
~ Jacques Plante

Some people are goaltenders, but most aren’t. And that’s a good thing. You can’t have a whole team of goalkeepers, or you’ll never win a game because you’ll never be able to score. Now, we’re describing the Church this morning as a team. The Bible doesn’t actually use that term, but it uses another term that communicates the same type of idea. You see, Paul tells us that the Church is a body.

Romans 12:4-5 (NLT)
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.

In Hockey, the players know their positions and know what they are supposed to do in their positions. They know what they’re good at, and they know how they can contribute to the success of the team. In the church we need to learn that, too. Everyone of us has a position to play on the team.

Think about it… if you’re at a hockey game and all you’re doing is watching, then you’re not a player… you’re a spectator. You’re not part of the team, you’re part of the crowd. If you’re going to be part of the team, then you need a job. And there are all kinds of jobs to do in the church.

In fact, a few weeks ago Bev and I sat down and we compiled a whole list of potential ministry opportunities here at Sunrise. And I’m sure we didn’t think of everything. So if you are unsure of what your ministry is, then here’s what I want you to do… on your Communication Card, across the bottom, you’ll see the letters of the alphabet. I want you to just circle the letter “M”. I’ll pass your name on to Bev, she’ll be in touch, you can brainstorm together and dream together and pray together, you can talk about some of the things you enjoy doing and what your passions are, and you can work through all that and she can help you discover a meaningful place of ministry here at Sunrise… something you enjoy and something you’re good at.

 

4. The Team Plays as a Team

Over the past four days, there’s been no end to the debate about why Team Canada lost. It’s been all over the sports channels, talk shows, the news… even NBC has repeatedly commented on how devastated Canada must be about the lose. And while there are plenty of fingers being pointed and lots of blame going around, I would say the main reason the team lost was that they never actually became a team. They were a team on paper, but not on the ice. They just never gelled. So what we ended up with were a bunch of hugely talented players all playing their own game and never accomplishing anything.

Phil Esposito, one of the heroes of the 1972 Summit Series, was interviewed this week after Team Canada lost, and this is what he had to say about teamwork…

“Unless you become a team, you can’t win. You cannot win as individuals in the sport of hockey or any other team sport, period.”
~ Phil Esposito

Babe Ruth thought he was talking about baseball, but he could have been talking about our 2006 Olympic Hockey Team when he said…

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”
~ Babe Ruth

Now, I should clarify, it was the men who never played as a team. The women’s team, on the other hand, never played better. Way back last summer, the women’s team came here to Charlottetown for an intensive time of training, and they’ve been together ever since. They bonded, they learned to care for each other, they knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they really became a team. And they have the gold to show for it.

From the passage Bev read for us, the Apostle Paul understood that he was part of the greater team. He understood that he wasn’t on his own… he was partnering with other believers. To the believers in the city of Philippi, he wrote…

Philippians 1:3-5 (NLT)
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News…

Along the west coast of California you can find huge groves of giant redwoods. These are impressive trees. Just looking at them they appear tall and sturdy and strong. But the truth is that their root systems are relatively shallow. Standing alone, they can easily be toppled by a strong wind. But in redwood forests, they stand side by side. Their roots become intertwined and their branches support each other. Not one of them can stand alone, but together they can withstand hurricane force winds.

That’s the way it is with the church. None of us can stand alone. And we shouldn’t have to. We should work together, we should support and encourage each other, we comfort and console each other when needed. As the Apostle Paul was describing the Church as a Body, he wrote…

1 Corinthians 12:26 (NLT)
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

We need each other. We’re all on the same team. We all have something to contribute. Some of us are more upfront and some of us are more in the background, but we’re all essential and we’re all on the same team. So let’s go out there and win.

 

Let’s pray together. But as we do, I should mention that in order to be on the team you need to sign on with the Owner. In order to be part of God’s Church, you need to choose to love Him and follow Him with your life. So if you’ve never done that before and you’d like to sign on today, then I’d like to give you that opportunity. So before we pray, as everyone has their eyes closed, if you’d like to sign on to God’s team today then just lift up your hand.

Pray...

 

[Much of the message adapted from material by Denn Guptill.]
 

 

 

 

 

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