Ann loved to watch hockey. Even though Hockey Night in Canada was put on the shelf until the players and owners could figure out how many millions of dollars the players could comfortably live on, she loved going to see the junior team play even more than the pro’s.
Ann and her dad went to the games together. It was their special time.
Ann’s dad scored tickets right behind the goalie. Ann loved sitting at the end of the rink so she could get a broader view of the game.
“Look at the cameras, Ann,” dad said pointing to the big camera at the front boards, “I guess the game is going to be on TV.”
But when her and her dad arrived at their seats she was troubled to see who or what was sitting next to her. He was dressed in red and purple and yellow and green pants, with a pink and orange shirt, and a brown and blue polka-dotted tie. To top it all off, he wore a wig that was coloured like a rainbow.
“Why would someone dress like a clown at a hockey game?” Ann asked herself.
Beside the clown’s chair sat a huge piece of cardboard that he must have ripped from the side of a box. “He must be a real hockey nut,” Ann thought to herself.
“Dad, can we switch seats?” Ann asked.
“I’m sorry sweetie,” Dad replied looking past Ann to the fellow sitting beside her, “but these chairs are too small for my legs and I need the aisle seat.”
Ann frowned and watched the clown from the corner of her eye.
The game started and the home team kept the puck in the zone where Ann and her dad were sitting. Ann loved the game’s fast pace. Finally, the puck went in the net. The red light when on. And the crowd went wild. The TV camera turned and scanned the seats. As the camera panned past Ann and her Dad, the guy beside leapt up from his chair, hoisting the cardboard sign in the air and shouting, “Read your bible! Read your bible!” His sign had huge letters that read “John 3:16.”
Ann was more than a little freaked by this guy and was terrified that she would be caught on TV sitting next to him. Her dad put his arm around Ann and pulled her tight against himself, protecting her from the clown man’s wild gestures.
That night as Ann was getting into her pajamas and to say prayers with her dad, Ann asked,
“What was that guy doing at the hockey game? Why did he stand up and shout nothing that to do with hockey each time a goal was scored?”
“I guess he had other ideas about what folks should do with their time.”
“But the sign he was carrying. Was that a bible verse?”
“John 3:16? Yes it is. I guess he wanted folks to read the bible more. Especially that verse.”
“I guess he believes that if people read the bible they will know God better.”
“But he was scary. He scared other people as well. How would scaring them make them read the bible?”
“Sometimes people with the best intentions do more harm than good. But, in a way, he’s right. If people read their bible a little more closely then they’ll better understand who God is. But people like our friend at the hockey game seem to think that the bible is a magic book. Like a book of spells that if you read it, the words themselves will change people. But it’s not the words that change people; it’s the message, the story of how God loves and accepts us know matter what we have done. That’s what changes us.”
“John 3:16. What does that say?” Ann asked.
“Well, let’s look it up,” replied dad. Ann pulled her bible from her shelf, found the right page and read it out loud to her dad, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
“That just about sums up the whole message of the bible doesn’t it?” said Ann.
“It sure does,” said her dad. “I guess that guy made us read the bible after all.”
Then they said a prayer like this as we do now, “Dear God, thank you for loving us just as we are. Thank you for giving your Son to us. Thank you for eternal life.” Amen.