Pew News Article for Sunday 18th July

Hello everyone

I think that even if you are not a football fan – and apparently about 33 million of us watched the game on Sunday – you may well have joined in with so much of the nation, watching and listing to the build-up, the game itself, and it’s extraordinary aftermath.

In the long build-up, we had detailed stories about the players, the coach, the supporters, and just about every tangential story imaginable. It would seem most of us could not get enough of the details. We listened to the pundits, and the players, old and new. When they were unavailable, we heard from their school coaches, and their childhood friends, and of course, their dear old Mums.) Almost everyone seemed to have an opinion, a feeling, a flag, a fortune-telling pet, or a plan as to how to spend Sunday evening, or whether to play 4-3-3 or whatever. On the day, bulldog patriots showed off their tattoos outside the ground. Everyone had advice for the prime minister, or the employers, or anyone else who would listen, as to the necessity of having a holiday the next day.

Then the game, then the silence of defeat, and the empty, litter-strewn streets. The news the next day largely avoiding the subject, save trying to extract a few positives out of not much. No day off, no euphoria, no more jumping on busses, or climbing the fountain in Piccadilly Circus. No more hope or aspiration. Just the quiet of defeat.

When things looked like they were going our way (from and England point of view anyway) everyone was together, everyone was happy and upbeat, everyone hopeful. But when the tap of victory was firmly turned off, most retreated into an individual silence of personal processing, and trying to simply get over the disappointment of Monday and beyond.

Football was not coming home – it was only ever an illusion, and an aspiration. The fact that England played very well throughout the tournament, except in the final second half, the fact they were exceptionally well managed and organised, the fact that up to that game they played with confidence and decency and team awareness, all this seemed not to matter, and to bring no comfort.

Who can we follow now? Who will lead us to victory? No one. We felt like sheep without a shepherd.

In our passage today, the crowds surrounding Jesus and the disciples are similarly euphoric. They thought they had found a Saviour, who would continue to feed them out of fresh air, who would heal their diseases at will, and guide their fortunes away from Roman domination and taxes and oppression. They also were on the crest of a wave. Until they weren’t. Until Jesus and the disciples are exhausted, and need to withdraw and recharge, and leave them to it. And escape across the lake by themselves. No more miracles for today. But the crowd want more – perhaps they were singing ‘Messiah’s Coming Home!’ as they ran on foot around the side of the lake to find Jesus. We want more miracles, more healing, more quick solutions for our lives. We don’t want to keep losing. We want to win.

And so, by the time the little boat reaches the far shore, there they were, noisy, expectant excited, busy – and lost. Because a fulfilled life does not depend on short-term fixes. But that’s all they want.

And Jesus sees them – even though it’s His day off – and has compassion for them – because they were like sheep without a shepherd. 

And of course, Jesus is at hand – the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. Does he heal them some more, or feed them some more? No. Not at once. First, He began to teach them many things. 

I think we all know that quick fixes don’t last. We need to hear God speak to us, personally, kindly, compassionately. We need His presence, not His presents! We need His love and care.

I wish I had been there! What a sermon that would have been – to hear, to experience.

I cannot say what Jesus taught them that day. All I can do is share the passage with you next Sunday, and if I may, travel with you in faith.

On we go.

Football may not be coming home this week – but we can. We can come home to Jesus – and find rest for our souls.

Let’s talk of this more on Sunday. May God bless us all.