The New Testament reading from Morning Prayer this morning is 2 Corinthians 6.1-7.1, from an ongoing and at times difficult correspondence between Paul and the church at Corinth. In particular, in these verses, Paul is addressing the way in which he, who has served them, has been treated badly for his efforts. While I resist the temptation to read scripture as being ‘all about us,’ I find, there, principles for all of us; and this morning I cannot help but read it against the experience of recent weeks during the Euros 2020/21.
Like Paul, both Gareth Southgate and RaheemSterling have written open letters to (in their case) fans, holding out their lives and the lives and record of their team-mates—players whose lives are scrutinised, every error of judgement but also every misinterpreted move punished by public crucifixion—and asking that, in return, those for whom their hearts have been put on the line might open their hearts to them.
In the face of critics who see the very presence of some of the squad as imposters, who refuse to see in them the image of God and the inspiration of the breath of God, this is a squad and a manager who have conducted themselves with dignity; who are more than winners, despite an empty trophy cabinet; and who have held out for us the day—moment, opportunity—of salvation from tribalism, racism and hatred: to respond as we choose. We see that response, clearly, as clear as light and darkness.
They have shown us what it is to be family, and to be rich. And they have participated in, and pointed to, something greater than fleeting national pride. And so, this morning, in collaboration with saint Paul, the lions inform my prayer.