Worship and The World Cup

soccerball.jpg I have a confession–I didn’t pay any real attention to the World Cup.
Yes, I dabbled in “football” (e.g., soccer) when I was a youngster, but the sport just didn’t hold my attention. Sure, there was a lot of movement on the playing field, but a score of 2-1 or 2-0 just wasn’t sufficient for my personal taste. There simply wasn’t enough “scoring return” for all of that cumulative exertion. “He shoots–No!” “He shoots–No, he missed!” “He shoots–and the ball goes wide!” That mantra continued for all but a few, brief moments during every game. But enough about my sporting affections.
Several days ago, I stumbled across an article in USA Today pertaining to the World Cup. The piece said:
“The Dutch will literally be praying for victory in the World Cup Final.
On Sunday morning in the village of Obdam, north of Amsterdam, the
Rev. Paul Vlaar and the members of his choir plan to wear orange
robes for Mass before the Netherlands’ match against Spain kicks off
in South Africa.
The candles, piano and even the snacks served with coffee afterward
will also bear the national hue.
‘I will say a special prayer and talk about the football game in my
sermon,’ Vlaar said Thursday.
He is expecting only a few hundred people in his small perish church,
but the Catholic priest has caught the mood of the nation as it heads
to its first World Cup final in 32 years…”
I had to stifle a laugh when I first read those brief paragraphs. The big news of the day was about how a nation bowed in reverential prayer for a win over their European opponents.
May I ask a few questions…? Forgive my sarcasm, but a few points seem in order:
1. Have we really come so far as human beings that we think God is concerned with the outcome of a soccer match? With all of the issues that plague our planet and the souls of mankind, is the Almighty bending His ear to hear prayers about an activity with no eternal dimensions?
2. Have we become so selfish that we can petition the Lord for a victory in this realm? James said, “You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). To ask amiss is to ask for the wrong reason. “Lord, help us to crush the Spaniards today as we battle them for supremacy in this epic struggle…”
3. The apostle Paul’s mandate to preachers says, “Preach the Word…” (2 Timothy 4:2a). Read that again slowly, “Preach…the…Word.” And why are we to preach the Word? Because it’s the only message for a lost and dying world (cf., 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21). A worship service and a sermon that majors on the outcome of a football game obviously can’t accomplish the Lord’s purpose. People are hell-bound and separated from the Father (Romans 3:23). They need the Word, not ESPN.
4. Paul spoke of those “whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame–who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19; cf., Colossians 3:2). Earthly things, perhaps like a football match?
If this whole situation weren’t so sad, it would be humorous. Dear friends, God is not Santa Claus–One who grants our whims like a child’s Christmas list. Worship is not about my wants; it’s about what the Lord desires and commands.

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Mike Benson

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