Rugby World Cup – here’s hoping
Our rugby nation has been treated to a feast of the great game in recent weeks. I have already made plans to ensure that I get to watch the final live on the Chathams on Sunday night. I was Assistant Priest in Greymouth when David Kirk led us to World Cup victory in ‘87. I look forward to celebrating an All Black victory with Chatham Islanders on Sunday night.
but what if…
We have been in this pre-final situation of hope before. We thought we were on the verge of victory, but it did not happen. Yes, once we did succeed. But five times we have missed out. It is a natural to want to win a battle. But at a level much deeper than our natural instincts, our human desires transcend the instinctual need to overwhelm a competitor. If we do win the cup we will applaud for a few hours and celebrate for a few days. But the demands and anxieties of our lives will soon once again be uppermost in our minds.
The ultimate challenge exists for ‘post-Christian’ people of our western world. We live in a secular environment. Our ancestors knew that God’s preferred place of working was in human loss and suffering. Therefore even in the midst of grief and distress, people knew that God was with them. All was never lost.
In fact sorrow and failure were the place where humans were most open to God’s love and God’s action in human life. In victory and success we have little felt awareness of our need for God. We even forget to give thanks for these gifts and achievements. The human person is vulnerable at the best of times. If we rely on human events and personal achievements to satisfy us, we are taking a great risk. No human achievement or victory can satisfy the longings of the human heart. The longings of the heart are built into us by God. These desires are the compass orienting us beyond earthly existence to divine life. Too often we use entertainments and encounters as escapes from the struggling reality that we do not know how to deal with. Perhaps this is a reason why statistics show an increase in domestic violence in the hours after an All Black loss? So what does this mean for our enjoyment of an important rugby game? We are most ready to really enjoy a rugby game or a concert, a new job, a course of study, or an encounter with friends most fully, when we see these entertainments and employments for what they are. Our hope is that on Sunday night the All Blacks will show us once again that our small nation is able to produce a team of the best sportsmen in the world. We rightly share in this victory since we (as our ancestors before us) support the All Blacks in every way. But we remember too that whatever happens at Eden Park, a greater and more stable reality is available to us: God lives among us, and desires to satisfy us fully in every moment of both victory and loss.