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16.07.2021

The Glory of Summer Sport

‘Why should I run round this field? I’m only going to get back here again, but sweatier.’

Sadly, this sort of thinking didn’t cut much ice with my PE teachers. At school, sport was to me as kryptonite is to Superman – the eternal thorn in my flesh. From the muddy misery of cross country to the humiliation of lunchtime footie, running around and kicking things held no joy for me.

It’s a philosophy (some might say a hang-up) I’ve carried into adulthood. And yet for some reason, when the Summer of Sport comes around, I’m glued to the TV with the rest of the nation. The balletic grace of Federer at Wimbledon, the heart-stopping goodness of the England squad (even when they lose on penalties), the sheer overload of the Olympics – there’s something so right about it all.

As a sporting luddite, what draws me in? What glimpses of heaven do I get from the arena?

Maybe it’s the way sport lets us play with the physics God created. When Novak Djokovic, skidding madly sideways, hits a tennis ball with just the right speed and spin to drop it onto the tramline, utterly foxing his opponent, you go: ‘WOW.’ The maths engine between his ears is so in tune with his muscles that he can thread a needle at 125mph, time after time. It’s beautiful – because it’s God’s perfectly-balanced physical machine whirring in harmony.

Or maybe it’s the way sport creates community. Sitting outside a Sussex taproom as England squelched Ukraine 4-0 the other week, after 16 months of isolation strangers became friends, tables were pushed together, and joy was unconfined. Even Sunday’s defeat brought with it a sense of corporate mourning.

I don’t need telling that football communities are a mixed bag (I used to live near the Chelsea ground – walking home between rows of mounted police is quite the experience). But in that momentary unity, there’s a glimpse of a heavenly society free of division.

And that community goes deeper at the Olympics. Where better to see ‘every nation, tribe, people, and language’ joined in peaceful celebration – except perhaps the church?

At its best, sport reflects the glory of God and reminds us of our common identity as his children. As we watch from the safety of the sofa this summer, may that reminder stay with us – and may we carry it with us onto our frontlines, living in a way which points others to Christ in turn.

Josh Hinton
Marketing & Editorial Lead, LICC

Comments

  1. I SO identify with your response to school sport; it seemed to be every PE teacher’s conviction that of course you could do much better than that if you really tried: as if coming a woeful last when you were giving it all you’d got and more wasn’t bad enough. Thank heaven that’s not our Lord’s approach: we’re accepted just as and where we are (on the sofa) and any transformation is not in my strength but his ….

    By Sheila Walker  -  16 Jul 2021
  2. “heart-stopping goodness of the England squad” – mmm. Does that include diving to win a penalty in the semi-final v Denmark?
    There is a lot that is good in sport – & Josh describes it well. But hard to escape (certainly at professional level) temptations of bending rules, bias, rivalry turning to antagonism and so on.

    By Gordon Palmer  -  16 Jul 2021

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