Originally published in the King’s Stanley Magazine.
It was a beautiful day: blue skies and a hot sun.
I had just refuelled the car and, having paid, I was just about to drive off when the attendant tied a green and gold streamer on the aerial. I had the sense to wait until I got home before replacing it with a red and white streamer. That evening I was delighted to watch Gary Lineker’s hat trick against Poland.
A week or so later we drove into Rio de Janeiro for the first time. It was a Saturday afternoon but there was hardly any traffic. Everybody was watching Brazil play France.
That was in 1986. We were living in Brazil, and experiencing how a country can really come to a stop when its team is playing, and how the mood turns from anticipation to palpable gloom as it did that night in Rio after Brazil lost.
(Never mind, England.We’re still in!)
We didn’t watch the game on the Sunday as we went up Corcovado to see the Christ statue, but I’ve seen that infamous ‘hand of God’ clip many a time since.
I am writing this before England have even departed for Russia and I note, with some alarm, that if things go badly wrong they will be home before this magazine is delivered. So I am taking a risk. I am putting my faith in the team, despite past failures. I am being patriotic, just as I was when our car sported the red and white amid the sea of green and gold. That is what being a Christian has meant over the years: taking a risk, putting my faith in the team (of the Church) despite failures. I am also being patriotic in the deeper sense of supporting God’s kingdom.
What, then, of ‘the hand of God’? In terms of football, is it worth winning if you have cheated? Can we get away with cheating in life? Would Maradona’s subsequent life have been different if he had ‘come clean’? Was he unloading the blame onto God? Evading his own responsibility?
Various puzzles and conundrums.
I do not have the answers, but often in life knowing the questions and facing up to the challenges they present is how life needs to be lived. This is our approach to our Sunday services which also aim to bring us into the presence of God and his ‘hands of blessing’.
Robert Draycott (Rev)