Thank God for Football!

17 Aug

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The wait is over! After a long football-less summer the English Premier League begins again for another season and gives my life what now seems a natural and rhythmic point of reference for a new year. As is my yearly custom I find myself thanking God for football and would he mind helping Spurs out this season to win the league!

Now you might be questioning the quality of the training at the William Booth College if a cadet’s theological development hasn’t progressed past the notion that God intervenes in the English Premier League, however, I’m here to tell you that God has got history with football!

Did you know that without God we wouldn’t have football clubs such as Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, QPR, Southampton and the mighty Tottenham Hostpur? (Thanks MH for buying me this book!)

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They all owe their existence to the church groups that started the teams. So let us not put football over in that corner, the church in another, politics over there and so on. God and football are all part of my life; I love them both, although perhaps in different ways. Let me explain how football (insert your obsession here) came into my life and how it has to countless others.

I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with my wife: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the challenges it would bring. Those of you who know me will know I tend to over-estimate the metaphorical value of football, and therefore introduce it into conversations where it simply does not belong to a normal person. If you have heard me preach, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I have invested hours, days, weeks, months, and years consuming football, thinking about God and wandering where His mission through The Salvation Army is headed. Often I have felt like I had little or no control in affecting any of these things; and is it any wonder, that we are reduced to creating ingenious but bizarre traditions designed to give us the illusion that we are in some way powerful. As a kid, if I had scored for my junior school football team, I would try and wear the same underpants (that’s underwear for you American English speakers) for the next match. I guess church has its own bizarre liturgies too, some helpful and some not, just as perhaps every other primitive community has done when faced with a deep and apparently impenetrable mystery: God.

I am also a committed Salvationist and have often seen people’s allegiances to the Army resemble that of football fan facing tough times. For many no matter how bad things have got, results have nothing to do with it. Many people should have withdrawn their attendance and support, as you would of a local restaurant if you were served up rubbish food. But for some people, consumption is everything; the quality of the product is immaterial.

Thankfully, there are many more people who have woken up to this in the church as we cannot just keep on consuming because we don’t exist for ourselves but for the people outside of it. Equally, it is not about making the product the ultimate goal, where church has flashing lights and a sexy looking membership.  Purely consuming church, or making the product the ultimate goal is wrong, for me it’s about doing the right thing in the right way, playing the beautiful game the way it should be with the right attitude, making bold decisions and adapting to the circumstances.

Another aspect to this thought is that Christians shouldn’t resemble football fans who only “sing when they are winning” as the football song goes. It’s easy to worship God or support your team when life is good, but what about when it isn’t? Do we just turn our backs on Him or them then? It reminds me of this song by Matt Redman entitled ‘Blessed be the Name of the Lord” which he wrote in a difficult period of his life. The verses read:

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Anyway, I hope that all aspects of your life, friendships, family circumstances, work, church life and football team all are in a good season or are beginning one. But remember to thank God even if they are not, even though this is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. We are not promised a perfect life as Christians, just to be faithful to His call.

Whatever this season brings, lets thank God…but especially for football.

Ben

You can listen to Matt Redmans great song here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8okACq1TowQ

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