Column: Soccer and Kingdom Come
By Chuck Davis
I am a Manchester United supporter. Manchester United is a football (soccer) team playing in the English Premier League. Having lived internationally for ten years of my adult life, I became a fan of “the beautiful game.”
I have a friend who lives outside of London who grew up in Manchester as a ManUtd supporter. He has been a season ticket holder for over 20 years and we have attended matches together. Because of technology, we now text throughout the matches when he cannot be at Old Trafford.
The texting is the same each match. We cajole and urge our team to victory. We complain when we play without passion. We out-coach the coach. We are invested. When we are not texting, we speak to the team through the TV. The interesting question is “Why?” Our lives do not substantively change when “we” win. But we treat the matches as though we have some skin in the outcome.
I think it reveals something deeper in us.
United has given us some great fútbol moments. We have seen many games snatched from defeat at the very end. So no matter how desperate the situation, we expect a good outcome. And more than a win, a real fútbol fan loves when the game is played beautifully.
A friend recently critiqued me in saying, “Do you expect to win every trophy every year?” Yes. I expect each match to be the best match yet, because I have previously tasted the good. So when things do not go well during a match, my reflex is to grumble, correct, cheer on, even armchair-coach in expectation of victory.
Okay Chuck, so what does this have to do with God’s kingdom coming?
My expectations of my fútbol team is similar to my relationship with God. He is amazing in his delivery and I have lived out such bounty in my life. To borrow from two declarations of the Scriptures:
You (God) make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
I have tasted and found that the Lord is good (I Peter 2:3).
I can say without hesitation that those verses capture my life story. Does that mean that everything has transpired without problem in my life? No. I have been deeply disappointed and experienced loss at different stages of life where I wondered what God was up to.
And so, in the way that I am disappointed when my fútbol team does not play well, I too am disappointed when it feels, from my vantage point, that God is not showing up in the manner that I would like. My greatest sense of frustration is when I see others suffering or in pain.
That is why we pray “your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—at least every Sunday if not several times in the week. That is why we volunteer and direct our resources to correct the broken places of our world. As long as brokenness in this world is around us, we cannot help but want to see it turned over by a better kingdom—and by inference, a better King.
I realize the huge gap in my analogy: disappointment in the outcome of a fútbol game and disappointment surrounding the deep pain and suffering in the lives people around us are not comparable. Life is not a game. But expectation lies at the core of every one of us. Once we have tasted of the good, we cannot help but want the best. It is called hope.
My prayer for you today, whatever loss you have experienced or are experiencing, you will still have the aspiration to cry out to God. And even better, that you will have people around you who are joining you in the expectation… “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come….”
The Rev. Dr. Chuck Davis is senior pastor at Stanwich Congregational Church.