Forty years ago yesterday, the US Olympic Hockey team defeated the 4-time defending Olympic champions, the team from the USSR. This allowed the US to advance to the finals and two days later, the US beat the team from Finland to capture the Gold!
It is difficult to capture the sentiment of the moment. The soviet team had only lost one game in 20 years! – yes, 20 years! They were dominant world champions and had also won 6 or the past 7 gold medals. They were grand, used to winning, seemingly unstoppable and entitled to win again.
The rag tag USA team, comprised of skaters from across the land, were just about the only people who thought they could win. The team went 4-1 into the medal round, while the Soviets were 5-0. So, the US, who didn’t normally do very well in the winter games (the Soviets and Germany were the top teams) weren’t necessarily expecting miracles. Not yet, anyway….
The US trailed most of the game – but finally tied it up and with a goal scored by Mike Eruzione, the team captain, the US took the lead with 10 minutes to go. They held on and in the final moments, announcer Al Michaels asked the rhetorical question, “Do you believe in miracles?” The place went wild as the buzzer sounded. Jim Craig, the goalie, and Mike Eruzione, seemed to attract the first wave of attention. It was wild as they skated around the ice with the flag draped over Craig’s shoulders.
The end of this game is rated as the most important sports event of the entire 20th century. Think about that – the most important event of the century! And we got to watch it live on TV as it unfolded. What was so interesting is the sense of national pride that we all felt. The Cold War was in full swing, we were heavy underdogs and yet WE WON!
Notice that I said that WE WON – all of us. Throughout the years, Mike Eruzione has mentioned this phenomenon many times. As he said, most of us weren’t on the team, but that didn’t make any difference – the US won… and we were all proud of it.
Since that time, several members of the team have sold their gold medals and other personal items from their collections – jerseys, sticks, Craig’s goalie mask and several other pieces of memorabilia. One member of the championship team, Bob Suter, died in 2014 as the result of a heart attack. He was the first member of the team to pass away.
Anybody who can remember the games that year can’t help but be proud of the US hockey team in Lake Placid. It was a miracle and, of course, that leads me to think about other miracles we have witnessed. To do that, we only need turn to the Bible.
The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate miracle. Many icons of the faith have died as martyrs, but if this had been the case with Jesus, Christianity would have died like so many other religions. What sets it apart is the fact that Jesus rose from the dead – a death that resulted in a substitutionary atonement for everyone’s sins. Never again would the sacrificial model be necessary to purge the people, temporarily, for their sins. Jesus did it all – one time for all eternity.
Our verse for tonight reminds us of this. In fact, there are various places in the Scripture where we are told that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, a passage where we are told that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead; and several places where theologians believe that we are told that Jesus raised Himself from the dead. Since all three members of the Godhead are divine, this doesn’t seem so far fetched. But the miracle of raising oneself from the dead has to be the greatest miracle of all time.
The apostle John tells us, in John 10:17-18, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
My encouragement tonight is that there are miracles all around us – and we will experience them if we can believe! Just like the hockey team… No matter how unlikely, miracles do happen. My prayer is that we will all allow ourselves to have childlike faith and believe in things that are seemingly impossible. After all, we won in Lake Placid and Jesus won the greatest victory ever – life after death – that is available to each of us as well. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…