"It matters a great deal who is going to win, but not at all who won"
EasterWhen David Beckham was recalled to the England team after new England coach, Steve Mclaren, had very publicly excluded him from his first England squad, the Times summed it up in a cartoon. The cartoon showed a very animated football fan telling a vicar “It’s amazing! Beckham was dead and buried. Now he’s been resurrected”. It was an interesting application of the Bible to sport.
Sports commentators like to talk about a great comeback by a player or team as a resurrection. It somehow gives it greater credibility to talk about a resurrection than a comeback.
On the other hand sport played at Easter can lead to tensions with the church. In Asheldham, Essex, in 1592, Richard Jeffercy appeared before the Archdeacon of Essex on the charge that he”'had procured company together and plaied at foote-ball in Hackwell, on Easter Monday in Evening Service time”.
The same issue arose last year when Aston Villa’s game with Everton was scheduled for 1.00pm on Easter Sunday. Aston Churches Working Together, which represents nine local churches near Villa Park, said that the game would prevent worshippers from attending church. In open letters sent to the Premier League, television broadcasters and to Aston Villa, church organisations in Birmingham criticized the scheduling, saying it would cause "chaos" and showed "distain" for traditions, religious supporters and club staff alike.
They also questioned how the Sunday Trading Act 1994 prevents large stores in England and Wales from opening on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, but does not stop major football matches from taking place.
Their statement continued: "We understand that Sunday is now a work day for many people. However, Easter Sunday is different... only Christmas Day is treated in the same fashion. By scheduling matches on Easter Sunday, the Premier League is treating it like any other day. Around 1,000 people will be prevented either from worship or spending time with their family by the match. This includes the extra police officers, the caterers and the staff at the grounds. Easter Sunday is traditionally the Sunday with the highest church attendance in the year... It is surely in no one's interest for them to be caught up with large crowds of football supporters hurrying to arrive by the kick-off. In rearranging this fixture in this manner, you show disdain for the religious traditions of this country, and the sensitivities of many employees and football supporters."
A Premier League spokesman said: "Having already taken the decision to alter the kick off times of both matches on Easter Sunday, as well as the club agreeing to fund additional policing to assist churchgoers, we believe we have done what we can to ensure that those attending places of worship close to the ground are not inconvenienced in any way."
The US Masters Golf tournament always finishes on a Sunday in April so it often hits Easter weekend. In 1993 Bernhard Langer won the tournament and celebrated his win with these words; “It’s a great honour to win the greatest tournament in the world, and especially on Easter Sunday, the day my Lord was resurrected.” When he was asked whether his first Masters win (1985) or his second was the more satisfying, he spoke about extra significance of winning at Easter.
As Easter is approaching the real resurrection is on our minds. On the first Good Friday, Jesus – the sinless Son of God went to the cross for you and me. He died for our sins that we might be forgiven. He died that you and I can live forever more. Death has lost its sting.
In Orthodox churches it is normal to exchange the blessing – “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed”. As Peter Kimber has written, “The words ‘Christ is risen’ have been taken up in every language and land, turned into simple hymns and great oratorios, gasped by the tortured or shouted in the face of death by the dying and the bereaved; spoken by martyrs from the scaffold and prisoners in death camps. Best of all, they were spoken in the depths of hell when Jesus burst the bonds of death for himself and for us”.
Where will you worship this Easter “at the shrine of human cleverness or at the empty tomb of Jesus Christ”.