I am writing this on Wednesday morning. The England football team have defied the odds and gone beyond all expectations.
On Saturday I joined with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in watching the quarter final on a big screen at the General Synod. Tonight, I will, like millions in England, be praying for Gareth Southgate and the team.
This morning when I took an early morning communion service with the bishops of the diocese. In it I prayed for the match, praying especially for people’s behaviour in response to the match. It horrifies me that when England lose incidents of domestic violence go up. In a similar way when they win some people do silly things as well. I did, however, include in the prayers, and got the bishop of Burnley giggling, “and as we are English, we pray for their victory.”
I was in South Africa when they won the Rugby World Cup and the Football’s Africa Cup of Nations. There were photographs of clergy wearing robes made from the South African Flag. The victories were seen as confirmation by God of the new start of the rainbow nation. It was all part of the miracle of moving away from apartheid into a brave new world
I assume that clergy in Croatia are also praying for their country’s team tonight. While I would like to think of God in a waistcoat rooting for England. When we pray for our team, we are praying that they may do the best they can and that they are not hindered in being all that they are. Jesus reminds us that God cares for the sparrows and therefore will care for us too. That he is interested in us and what we are about.
In the past few days we have witnessed the miracle of the rescue of a children’s football team from a flooded cave in Thailand. When they were first lost, there was a sense of despair and an assumption that there would be a disaster. However, they were found and divers at great risk and, sadly for one with the loss of his life, were able to get the whole team out. A seemingly impossible scenario has through prayers, skills, insights and action been transformed in a dramatic way.
So tonight, I and millions of others will be praying for the England team and hoping Sunday will have us all praying again. The mischievous part of me then wants to challenge us to apply our prayers to other important matters in the world, not just Football and who knows what miracles we will see.