Wednesday, February 11, 2015

LINES – Forming God’s Olympic Team

The Jeff Morton Report (


By Nathan Grapes
I woke up this morning thinking about the movie Miracle on Ice.  This is the story of how college Ice Hockey players won the 1980 winter Olympics.  I would often watch this movie while riding a stationary bike getting in my morning exercise. While watching the movie I couldn’t help but have a parallel story running alongside of it in my mind.  I was seeing multiple parallels to a spiritual journey that I have been on since the birth of my twin sister and I back in 1964

The miracle on ice began during the midst of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. At the time our respective countries competing to build weapons of mass destruction, go figure? The Iranian hostage situation was just ending. The year was 1980. President’s Ronald Reagan (newly elected) and Mikhail Gorbachev were at the helm of both countries respectively. Gas prices were high with rationing in effect. 
The Soviet Union was losing a war with Afghanistan while threatening to boycott the Lake Placid Winter Olympic games. 

In the world of Olympic hockey, the US team would face the Soviet Union. In essence, David against Goliath! The US team was comprised of unpaid college athletes who practiced together for less than one year. The Soviet team had been together many years boasting over 50 straight wins. Steroid use was like honey and bees, as far as Russia was concerned.
Coach Herb
The US team was led by Herb Brooks demonstratively a very unconventional coach.  Coach Brooks was hired to lead the Olympic team because his Minnesota college team became the college national champions. He selected his Olympic team after only one practice. US officials were furious having paid airfare and hotels for a week of tryouts to several hopefuls.  Coach Brooks was not interested in the best players nor was he interested in the opinions of those with deep pockets Mr. Herb Brooks, Coach Brooks had a plan. His Olympic team was based on skills that a “TEAM” needed to win! Quoting Coach Brooks, “I am putting together a team not the best athletes.”

As the story goes, one day a fight broke out between two players (both players having played during college playoffs.) One player felt he missed his chance at a championship due to a cheap play in their college days.  Coach Herb allowed the fight to continue. When the two young players were done fighting he asked each player their name, their college team, and what position they played.  Both young men answered Coach Herb’s question. I will address the question Coach Herb asked a little bit later.   

A scrimmage game took place against the Swedish team. The American team lost, it was truly an embarrassing loss!  One of the problems that attributed to this loss the American team, late in the game, begins to focus on the girls in the bleachers. The plans to meet with these girls after the scrimmage game became more important to many of the Olympic players. Coach Herb is furious!

At the end of the game Coach Herb handed to his assistant a whistle asking the assistant coach to have the team line up.  The players lined up on the farthest line on the ice field.  The assistant blows the whistle; the players have been through this drill many times before. A formal punishment was now underway. 

As astonished fans exited the building Coach Herb reminds the players (as they race back and forth across the ice field,) “YOU are not here to check out the girls in the bleachers!” His assistant blows the whistle and off the players skate.  Coach Herb even more angered yells, “If you do not want to give your best effort, there are 100 more players waiting to take your place, AGAIN!” The whistle blows and off they go!   

Coach Herb’s voice angrier, his pitch more determined and louder he yells, AGAIN!!!!  “You are not here because of the name on the back of your Jersey but the name on the front!” Again!!! Back and forth the team skates, the assistant now chirping as the whistle continues to echo the anger of Coach Herb. On it goes until the team doctor comes out and declares, “Herb they have had enough!” Herb ignoring the doctor barks, “Again!”

After everyone has left the building, the custodian turns off the lights and sends someone to tell Herb that he has to get up early the next morning. Several players now dropping to their knees, some, heading towards the locker room.
Herb says “have him give me the keys and I will lock up”, telling the players, “get back in line “You may not be the best players but you will be the fittest players, AGAIN!” 

The darkened rink echoing the sound of young men racing back and forth, no girls, no rendezvous!  Exhausted players are falling to their knees some begin vomiting the little left in their stomachs.  Finally one player shouts his name, the coach retorts “who do you play for”, the player shouts back “USA”. Herb says “let’s go home.
Eventually the team goes on the win the Olympics, pulling major upsets along the way. 
Their double, digit, wins now legendary within the world of hockey!  The US team won the Gold defeating Finland in the championship game. This fine group of athlete began to call Coach Herb simply Herb. This man was the teacher who taught them to win, to be a team. To them he is affectionately their friend, another part of the same effort.
As a student of the Creator, the Biblical God of Israel what is going on in my head parallels this remarkable story.  I see the players as people who view the scriptures through their denomination.

Juxtaposing Herb for a moment:  When Herb would ask your name and who do you play for you might respond, “I am Joe the Baptist,” or Ken the Lutheran” All the denominations are present and accounted for.  And yes a few Jews are on the team too. (After all, they were the original set apart Olympic Team.) The desert trek alone was worth a few thousand gold medals in my opinion!
However, Herb is not looking for the name on the back of your Jersey or the denomination you are affiliated with, or even how good you are.  The lines on this field are the scriptures or biblical text. What we need to realize is that our denominational view should not define us. Rather, who are we playing for should define us.  

Herb, like God, (less the rough edges) says, “Our views should line up with the Word”.  Herb shouts, “Again” and the whistle blows.  We must read God’s word again, like those Jewish Bereans and again, and again.   

We must understand the context of the initial team members beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and yes, even Paul. None won a championship game! Back and forth we are sent to test what we know to be true.  Herb shouts “if you don’t want to give him 100 percent there are 100 more in the highways and by-ways ready to take your place, “Again”.  Funny, I am reminded of all of the trips Moses made up and down Sinai)

Angrier Herb shouts “Stop thinking about what you will be doing after the service and start doing what the spoken, written, and living word teaches” “Again” should be our whistle! Back through the scripture we go, often finding something we haven’t seen before! Perhaps, we notice that the New Testament letters are quoting Old Testament coaches. 

Herb barks “We may not be the most talented people but we will know what the word of God declares and we know a lot more about the Hebrew friends who wrote it
“Again,” We re-read everything God put in his word and we find that the Scripture is repeating itself as well. Layer upon layer reaffirming Marriage, Kingdom laws, Stipulations, Commandments, a King and a Kingdom.

Deuteronomy clearly addressing blessings and curses, dictating terms on being winners or losers. The Kingdom of God is presented over and over via covenants; one team, ultimately one coach!

The game being played has patterns, themes, instructions, rules, and is a complete guide towards total victory.  The team is learning how to win the game using numbers that mean something, names that tell a story. The language of those chosen to teach all of us how to win begins to resonate.

Herb barks again, and off you go late into the night even the Janitor goes home but you’re still reading your lines.  Finally someone shouts, “I’m Terry!”  Herbs responds, “Who do you play for?” Terry shouts back, “The Kingdom of Heaven, Herb says, “Let’s go home!”

God has given to us the means to see him in everything. However, like Herb, He is on the ice field not in the bleachers.

Death of Herb Brooks

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