As I write, England are awaiting their final match before a guaranteed quarter-final in the World Cup. After an astonishing second group match with some of the best tactical play England have ever employed in a free kick, things are looking calmer. Kane might be rested, with others previously benched now given the chance to run about. But the threat remains of a more challenging third match against a better opponent than Tunisia and Panama, who are not only below-par internationally, but downright dirty in practice.
You might be sick of this.
You might not care about football – or sport in general! – and have seen enough waffled about already, certainly in the hour and a half of studio discussion before a match begins.
Or maybe you feel how the complainant to the BBC did about their coverage overshadowing more important events around the world (since then, the BBC have cut back on their football somewhat…)
It is easy to feel that way when something seems to take over everything. Particularly if it is not of our natural inclination and people seem to be getting excited over something we find banal.
But I was in a prayer group this morning where a truth was said that puts the current state, of what is (essentially) twenty-two men kicking a bag of wind around a field, into context.
There are times in life when we appear to be surrounded by only the negative, and we get stuck in cycles of only expecting – and unconsciously 'wanting' – the negative because of it. We then miss the opportunities to explore the positive and see where something life-giving and uplifting can come: we might not naturally enjoy a football match – or Wimbledon, Tynwald Day, visiting annoying relatives etc. – but there is always something within that experience that can overturn our negativity.
After all, God is in everything to redeem everything.
It is in this situation I know of someone who currently grieves the death of a loved one. At the worst of timeshe has found a welcome distraction of what is ‘normal’ life in a very un-normal circumstance. The chance to be around friends and community, trying to experience normality, has given him the courage to continue where others may not. Football has been part of this.
Equally, to that complainant who said the BBC were putting a sport above the tribulations of the current migration crisis, it may be fair to say "the poor you will always have with you", but we only have one wedding at Cana.
When the times come to find joy and celebration in something, they must not be ignored but celebrated. Sometimes when it is read, Jesus does not sound naturally comfortable at the wedding, but he certainly gave them the best party. So too must we with our life in this world.
It is not ignoring the plights that surround us everyday, because we should always be the Kingdom in situations where people, such as refugees, need us. Instead, it recognises as a gift from God that refreshment, rest, energy, positivity and community can be found in things we might ignore if they are not our usual habit.
So we prayed for the World Cup, that it be seen as an offering we can rejoice in, particularly if it brings joy to people in dark situations.