PLAYOFF HOCKEY AND PENTECOST
Just like that, it was over. After six hard-fought games, including three games that went to overtime, one shot and it was all over. Six minutes and thirty-two seconds into overtime last night, Nick Bonino of the Pittsburgh Penguins beat goaltender Braden Holtby to send the Pens into the Eastern Conference finals. From all accounts, Consol Energy Center exploded in delirium as the home team celebrated their good fortune (as you can see here.) I know what I am going to say may be sacrilege to some of my readers, but I can promise you from first-hand experience that there is nothing louder or more passionate than a packed hockey arena during the Stanley Cup Playoffs – not even LSU-Alabama football on a Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
As I was going to bed last night, my mind drifted from the euphoria of things being the way the ought (with the Penguins continuing on to the next round) to thoughts of this Sunday, the day in the life of the church known as Pentecost Sunday. Scripture records the first day of Pentecost as follows from the second chapter of Acts (NRSV):
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
Nowhere in this passage is there any indication that the people gathered together had any idea what to expect. We see in the above text they simply gathered together for the same purpose – to be together on the day of Pentecost. People of many varied backgrounds, traditions, and languages came together; the unexpected happened. And through their shared experience, all were able to understand the other because of the common bond of the work of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve been to these playoff games; the atmosphere is wild. You will often wind up with people sitting around you with whom you have never had contact before, from different neighborhoods and suburbs, from differing socio-economic strata, of many ages…and yet, through the common bond of a love for the Penguins, you will share a two-to-three hour passionate experience with the language of love for the team binding you together in ways you could not possibly imagine. When the unexpected happens (while we Penguin fans expected a win, no one knew exactly how it might happen) the place is unified with the blare of the goal horn, the waving of towels, and pure pandemonium in the seats. You understand one another in ways you may never have before and may never again.
Yes…there is a correlation between playoff hockey and Pentecost…the divergent converging for one purpose, with the unexpected bringing the collective whole together in ways that eliminate any bounds we might normally set in place with people who might never normally associate finding passion and purpose to bring us indescribable joy.
May we, the body of Christ, be as passionate and responsive in the work of the Holy Spirit through Pentecost as we are about our favorite teams in other endeavors – be it sports or anything else. May we, the body of Christ, find pure indescribable joy in the sacred honor of participating in the work of the Holy Spirit not just as a way of observing Pentecost – let it be for us a way of life.
Grace and Peace, Lamar