It’s always a tense experience watching England play football. This year everyone has tried to play down the hype and stress the unity and youth of the team and a realistic optimism. But you can still sense the readiness for national soul searching and despair just beneath the surface should they fail. This year the England team began with twenty minutes of confident lively attack and an early goal – perhaps things were going to be different – but then the unfair equaliser, England down on their luck again and England were back to those slow laborious build ups and back-passes and we were beginning to experience that familiar sinking feeling. Midway through the second half the commentator’s optimism had vanished: “England have really, lost the pace. Perhaps the heat has got to them. They are going to have to do something soon,” and we were once again shouting “Oh no!” or something worse at the television.
But then in injury time when we had almost given up hope a late goal and there is a future again. How things turn on a second and reputations are won or lost. The commentators tune changes too and suddenly everything is peace and light. How precarious the fortunes of a football team. How precarious is our own life- how quickly we can build up and also pull down. As Shakespeare’s Falstaff says “What is honour? A word… What is that “honour”? Air. A trim reckoning. Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday.”
Thank God that our Christian faith is founded on a deeper sense of faithfulness. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases” we are told. It’s just as well. In a world of binary soundbites and screaming headlines where reputations can be won in a second and anxiety can so easily suffocate the joy of life (and football)- our faith points beyond the death of honour or reputation to a love which stays the distance and from the darkness of a tomb points towards a lake teaming with life and a victory celebrating peace for all nations. That’s our goal. It would also be good to see England score a few this Sunday.
Revd Richard Carter