As a fan of football I was interested to hear about the greatest ever come back in Champion’s League history that took place several weeks ago – a comeback that was described by one commentator as being like the team “coming back from the dead”. Those who follow football will no doubt be aware that I am referring to the fortunes of Spanish football giants Barcelona and their recent overturning of a 4 goal deficit after a first leg defeat in Paris to the French footballing giants of Paris St Gemain – an overturning thanks to a second leg victory by 6 goals to 1. An impressive result no doubt, and adding to the drama is the fact that three of the Spaniards goals came in the final 5 minutes of the game, goals that were each absolutely vital to this footballing “return from the dead” – “returning from the dead” to progress through to the next round of the Champion’s League by 6 goals to 5.
Now the ex-Liverpool manager Bill Shankly may have described football as being more important than life and death, but I am afraid that I find the game rather less serious then that, (although given that I support Manchester United, who are suffering a bit of a downturn in form after their previous years of dominance some may say that this is both no surprise and rather convenient). However, I do generally think that, despite being a fan of the game, football is still simply just that, a game – merely a spectacle based around 22 people kicking a ball (and often each other) around a pitch for 90 minutes.
So what is important in life, you may ask? What really is life and death when it comes to our world today? If you ask me, it is how we treat each other and the world around us. It is about how we respect and respond to the life we see around us in our world.
As I write these words our news is full of the terrible state of famine that has struck several countries across Africa and Asia, awful pictures that show most shockingly children in such places as Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen suffering from disease and malnutrition. Alas as has been made clear for many of these, and especially inevitably the children, being the weakest and lowliest of those affected, there is no coming back from the dead. Many of those shown on our news end up dying because of their plight.
In April we in church celebrate Easter, the time when we recall Jesus coming back from the dead, the time when we rejoice that He rose again following His death in an act that both showed Him to be the Son of God, but that also revealed the extent of the love of God for the world. For this was a love so great that Jesus came into the world, died and rose again in order that none should perish and all should have eternal life. Those people who inhabit our world are so precious that God was willing to die and then majestically return to life for the sake of those who live in it.
And what more or less can those of us who live in our world now and revel in the joy of this Easter celebration do other than treat those around us in that world with the same sense of love and joy?
In St James we will be collecting money for those affected by the famine that is hitting our world (or possibly by the time you read this, already have), hoping that in this small way perhaps we can help some of those affected “return from the dead” – or certainly try and help keep them alive as best we can. But there are of course many and more others, both near and far who need to know and feel an outpouring of Easter joy from those of us who follow Jesus in their lives. How can it be that in another recent news story, school girls from certain parts of Yorkshire are missing school because they live in households that cannot afford for them to receive sanitary products when it comes to the time of their period? The film I, Daniel Blake, recently released on DVD is another tale that highlights the plight of those in need much, much closer to home – certainly to us as it is set in Newcastle. Make sure you watch it.
Life is not a game, it is real and Jesus returned from the dead to show us how precious that life is. Perhaps as we make our way through the season of Easter beginning this month, we could respond to the joy of the new and eternal life that Jesus won for us by doing whatever we can to give life and joy to those who are living in the world around us, those who God loves so much, that He died and rose again for us.