Yesterday was Grand Final Day for Australian Rules Football. I’m sure you knew it was coming and equally sure you know it has happened. For Victorians who championed the game from the beginning, it is a day of great ritual, significance and reverence.
As I write this, the day has not yet dawned and so I am unable to know which club will win the premiership. But as you read these words sitting in Church, you will know the end result.
In our country, Australian Rules Football has grown in popularity in inverse proportion to the decline of the adherence to our Christian faith. In pondering this it might help to compare what goes on in our churches with what goes on ‘out there’ on the field.
In raw terms, both Church services and football matches have performers and audiences, both involve music, liturgy (the ways and rules of doing things), set times, a loose dress code for the audiences although not for the performers, a strong set of belief in a God or a local team who can do no wrong. The game of football has an umpire to keep things in order, our liturgy has a priest who leads the service. There may be many other parallels you can think of.
However, one large difference between the two is that football is a game of competition with one winner and one loser. It is gladiatorial. In our worship services, there are no winners or losers, in fact we are all equal before God as Jesus and then Paul tell us many times.
But there’s more. Watching or barracking at a game of football does not require us to think any further than the here and now, believing in the physical laws of nature as we see the ball moving from end to end. But is there more? There is, and it is the unpredictability of the play, who will star with a goal or a mark and what will be the outcome.
You see, there is mystery to the game of football and that is what keeps us going. If at the beginning of the year we knew the winners of the Premiership, would we bother attending all the matches in the lead up to the big day at the MCG?
So, are we close to a commonality? If our religion and our football both involve mystery, why is one increasing in popularity while the other is in decline? Can I suggest that the mystery within football is both short-lived and eventually ‘knowable’? Today, the mystery of yesterday’s match is no longer a mystery. And you’re not really worried about the mysteries surrounding any of the matches next year until the games begin again. But the mystery of our faith is ongoing as long as we are. It will not be known to us until we are ‘on the other side’ when all will be revealed.
So, in comparison to football, maybe that’s why we lose out in the popularity stakes. The revelation of our mystery is long-term, the outcome is unknown in the here and now and our worship is not gladiatorial even if a few of our Church meetings have generated some light and heat.
I’m sure there is much more to say about this, but friends, this is all I can ramble on about right now.
Love and peace,