Friday, 20 June 2014

A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief #worldcup2014

And so we gathered in The White Horse expectantly, the proverbial triumph of hope over experience. Over forty of us communing over curry, beer and World Cup football. Already on the back foot after the first loss against Italy, nevertheless there were signs of promise amidst the usual weaknesses and failings. The food, drink and company were excellent, unfortunately the same could not be said of the match. We lost. We lost to Uruguay. To be more precise, we lost to Louis Suarez. I won't detail the many reasons why this is a particularly bitter pill to swallow (his past racial abusing of an opponent, his attempt to eat another player etc.), what really hurts is the Uruguayan was only 75% fit and yet managed to make our defence look like a group of disorganised pub footballers.

The brief respite during the evening was provided by the half-time pundit we had invited along to save us listening to the inane ramblings of Adrian Chiles and the ITV crew. Bishop Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, rose to lift our spirits as England trudged off the pitch 1-0 down. He chose as his text Isaiah 53:3 and proceeded to recount just about every failing of the England team since the glory of the 1966 World Cup final. It was a litany of misery, failure, pain and suffering. From Peter the cat Bonetti's gaff against Germany in 1970, through the catalogue of missed penalties, red cards and squandered chances, up to Rob Green's howler against the USA in 2010. Bishop Stephen, speaking from bitter experience, reminded us that the lot of the England supporter is one of sorrow and grief, with each of us bearing the sores and scabs cruelly exposed afresh at tournament after tournament. He went on to remind us that each of us bears the marks of sorrow and grief accumulated over a lifetime and though we might empathise with one another there isn't much we can do about it. And then Bishop Stephen reminded us of the one who chose to share our condition and the only one who offers, not only understanding, but forgiveness, healing and hope; the Lord Jesus Christ, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. As we prepared to endure the second half Bishop Stephen concluded with his challenge: 'wake up and smell the incense!'.

True to form, having given us a few moments of hope with a goal from Rooney, England blew it as Suarez (may he be hounded from stadium to stadium next season) smashed the ball past a flailing Joe Hart in the last few minutes, to remind us afresh that we really are people of sorrow and acquainted with grief.

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