1 Sep 2022 • Articles
It has been an amazing summer of sport; with the England ladies’ football team winning the European Championship, and the fantastic events of the Commonwealth Games. If you have been following all of this, then you will recognise the sense of joy and elation the various successes have given us. Being aware of the nation urging on the Lionesses and kicking every ball, swimming every stroke with Adam Peaty probably in the whole of Uttoxeter and beyond, we realise it is a collective feeling that we are joining in. There is no other euphoria quite like that of winning, of fulfilling what was set out to be achieved, whether that is on a personal level, as a group, or vicariously through others with whom we associate.
When I was studying for a basic managerial certificate many years ago, we were looking at beliefs, and the tutor asked what we believe in. One student said, “I believe in Sport for All” (which was quite the jingle back in the 90’s). Unfortunately, I am not an actively sporting person; I am not built for sport – basically I do not have the physical flexibility for such games as cricket (ask anyone who has seen me try to bowl), or golf, or tennis, or any field sports. At a majestic ‘five foot five and a half’ I stand no chance in the air competing for a football. So, I am a supporter. But even as such, success and winning can be very thin. My football team is from the lower divisions (Tranmere Rovers), and they seem to spend more time being average to poor than lifting the silverware!
Disappointment, failure, lack of success can all be very disheartening; and not just in sporting terms, this is keenly felt in all aspects of life – including church, and our own personal journey of faith. In Hebrews, Saint Paul speaks of running the race with perseverance, of fixing our eyes on Jesus. Instant success in any endeavour is never guaranteed, but we live in a society that places great store on achieving such as celebrity status through X-factor, The Apprentice, and the like. Euro-millions, the postcode lottery, and gambling adverts draw the unwary into thinking life-changing amounts are there for the taking, at the spin of a wheel. As people of faith, are we too being drawn into thinking there is a formula for instant success, of filling our churches overnight?
Ultimately, our faith is not a spectator sport, we are called to be active participants in growing the kingdom. Sometimes this can seem most daunting, that is why Paul’s words of encouragement are so heartening. “Persevere”, he says. We persevere by focussing on Jesus, setting aside the disappointments and inabilities that we may experience on the road, rather gaining momentum through what we can do. And for many of us, I imagine, it may not be the big things that will make a difference. Jesus engaged with people by walking alongside them, by having time for them. During interviews reflecting on the legacy of the Games in Birmingham, a recurring theme was that of welcome, inclusivity, and friendliness. Not so much the Bull in Centenary Square, the new stadium, the opening and closing events, but the warmth and love people experienced. The most basic of human needs is to feel loved and special, to be a part of something larger (perhaps even indefinable), something which speaks to our inner being. Giving of our time for others, no matter how much it seems to intrude on the business of our lives, is a beautiful way to offer this hospitality to all those we meet, and it can be one of the greatest expressions of God’s love.
What was my answer to the question “what do you believe in?” – that Jesus Christ is alive and at work in the world today.
Every Blessing, John.