I love hockey and the Stanley Cup finals are almost here! As a kid growing up, I ate, slept, dreamt, and of course, played hockey. It’s a great sport —fast, exciting, challenging, and competitive. Back in the ‘60s (which are the Middle Ages to my kids), the Saturday evening ritual for me in the Weatherby household was to endure Lawrence Welk, laugh with Red Skelton, take my bath (gotta be clean for Sunday!) and tune in to “Hockey Night In Canada.”
If the Leafs won, I went to bed happy and contented. But if they lost, I sank into the depths of despondency (okay, maybe a mild depression). On Sunday morning as my Sunday School teacher was trying to bring order out of chaos, we boys would be whispering about the game highlights of the night before.
On Saturday mornings, my Dad and I would arise at an ungodly hour to snatch some breakfast before heading to the Welland Arena for my minor hockey league game. I was never very good but once in a blue moon I’d manage to score a goal or get an assist. Then, of course, I’d get my name in the local paper — what a thrill! One time the report read that I had “dented the twines.” It was even poetic. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!
And therein lies the problem. Hockey had become more than a game to me. In fact, it had become my “god.” I didn’t realize it at the time, and I probably would have denied the charge. After all, I didn’t bow down and worship the Stanley Cup (although some NHL players come pretty close!) but hockey had become much more than a sport to me.
Someone has defined an idol as “anything or anyone that comes between us and God.” I think that’s a pretty good definition. Hockey had definitely become my idol and the local arena was my temple. The first of the Ten Commandments says this: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Hockey was definitely more important to me as a boy than God was. In fact, a lot of things and people were —my family, friends, school, other sports. I probably had God relegated to about tenth spot on my priority list.
Am I saying hockey is bad? Not at all. I still like hockey, but it is no longer my “god.” The true God must have a keen sense of humour because the setting I found myself in when I made my commitment to Him was a hockey arena in St. Catharines. I still remember the huge banner hanging from the wall — “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). And I still remember the speaker challenging us to personalize John 3:16 by putting our name in it. I did that. I read, “For God so loved Rob that He gave His one and only Son that if Rob believed in Him Rob would not perish but have eternal life.”
Well, that’s how it happened for me. What about you? Do you have any idols in your life taking God’s rightful place? If you do, put them where they belong and put God where He belongs.
Yes, hockey is a great sport but…it makes a terrible god!
Pastor Rob Weatherby served congregations in Nova Scotia and Ontario over the last 40 years and still enjoys playing hockey.