“Don’t cry, Kai. If Italy beat Costa Rica today… then Suarez & Co lose to Italy.. and Daddy scores a couple (or maybe more) against Costa Rica.., WE’RE THROUGH.”
This is the headline which greets you this morning as you bend down to pick up your copy of the Sun. This has to be hope against all the odds.
(Kai, incidentally, has to be the most-used word in the New Testament – it is the Greek word for ‘and’. It is also the name of Wayne and Colleen’s four-year-old son).
Mind you, I’m not sure if I could cope should this most unlikely scenario ever takes place. Supporting the England football team always takes it out of me, maybe even more than the Merseyside Derby. Always the prospect of longed-for victory coming tantalizingly close before being inevitably snatched away. The only consolation is that this year it didn’t involve the Germans.
And of course, it takes over our national life. In the implausible event that our lads should ever make the World Cup final, the whole country would come to a halt and perfectly sensible people would be painting their faces white and red.
Strange – but what is even stranger is that this should be happening in our postmodern culture in which the individual is king. “ You’re on your own,” writes Dr Seuss. “And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
We live in a society in which the individual and individual choice is given centre stage. “There is no such thing as society.” And churches – along with all voluntary associations such as political parties and trade unions – are fragmented by this rampant individualism. “What’s in it for me?” is the cry of our age.
Of course, the Bible emphasises the individual. Only I can decide to follow Christ, no one can make this decision for me. In this key passage from Galatians 2, just count how often Paul uses the words ‘I’ and ‘me.’
“But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
But the whole point here, as Paul argues, is that this “I” is to surrender to the risen Christ in order to become the “we.”
For God has made us to belong. It’s part and parcel of being human. And when this need is denied in one area it will appear in a new – often surprising – context, especially in sport.
However, the fundamental is that we made to belong to God. Hence the New Testament’s total commitment to the Church as the body of Christ. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” writes the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 12:27).
We are individuals, each of us unique, so that each of us can belong to the fellowship of Christ in our own particular way. Of course, that is often hugely difficult – we all like our own way. That is why Paul writes: “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” And then he points us to the selfless of Christ. (Philippians 2:1-11)
For belonging to his Church has to be one of the most powerful witnesses to Christ to a lonely world.
Our church summer camp begins this evening. Just call in anytime to the campsite at Scarisbrick Hall. It’s something we are doing together.