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  • Sarah Raad

Rugby

Our ultimate goal is eternal salvation. That is why we were made!

Salvation (Verschieden)

A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I took our children to their – and my – second live NRL match. I have mentioned before that my children – having been conditioned by my brother from a very early age – are very keen Parramatta Eels fans. While I am happy to encourage these children to support their sports team of choice, I am not a very keen follower of sport itself. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I actively avoid following sport in any way at all with the exception of some tennis (as this was the sport I competed in as a schoolgirl).


As I was watching that game on that Sunday afternoon, the similarities between sport and our practice of religious worship became quickly apparent to me.

I am not talking about the old argument that Australians have replaced religious worship with worship of sports, though such an idea probably has merit. I was not reflecting on the competition between the two actions – I noticed the similarities...

Poets like Bruce Dawe in his 20th century protest poem, “Life Cycle”, satirically comments on the Australian tendency to worship sporting heroes rather than God, “…the elderly still loyally crying … having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of SALVATION.” (emphasis added).


Though analogies such as this one by Dawe are worthy of consideration, my thoughts had turned to how the ritual of sport is similar to that of worship…


If we consider rugby, we must first recognise that there are two teams on a rugby field. Our team and theirs… Both teams have an equal number of players and each is led by its own captain.


With God too, there are only two teams. There is the GOOD – God’s team, under His captaincy – and there is the ABSENCE OF GOOD, which we call evil, captained by the Evil One. Each team works to outmanoeuvre the other team and though at times it may appear that they are evenly matched, in reality all the power lies in the GOOD. Any power exerted by the Evil One is ALLOWED by God. This means that though in some of the scuffles it appears that one team is ahead and the other behind and vice versa, luckily for us, GOOD TRIUMPHS OVER EVIL… and God ALWAYS wins!


Each rugby team wears its own uniform, so it is easily recognisable on the field.


With God too, there is a uniform that makes it easy to recognise whose team we are on. Those of us who are on the GOOD team, wear a uniform comprised of the virtues, and those on the EVIL team, wear vices. People who behave in a virtuous manner are identifiable as members of the Good Team, which is how we recognise the saints, because all the saints behave similarly. It is this similar virtuous behaviour that is used to identify the saints in the initial stages of their cause for sainthood. It is their holiness, which is a reflection of their virtues, which serves as their uniform for all of us to see.


Each team is trying to score tries by taking the ball from the other and flinging it over the try line or goal.

With God too, we chase our goal. For the Good seek eternal salvation in Heaven, and for those who follow evil, they fling that ball in the opposite direction, trying to get as far away from the GOOD as possible.

Funnily enough, there is even a “sin bin” in rugby. This is a place for players to go and wait for 10 minutes off the field in retribution for their penalties. This made me laugh the other day when my little boy explained it to me. What is this other than Purgatory? Purgatory for rugby players – but also Purgatory for us, which is surely just the same… time away from the action where we cannot talk to the captain of the team, who is GOD, and have to wait on the side until we are ready to resume to game.


But there were other things I noticed about the game as I observed my children watching it that caused me to think of God…


When the action was happening up close to our end of the field, their eyes were glued to the grass on the field directly in front of them. But when the action moved away to the other end of the field, their eyes shifted up to watch the action on the big screens.


It is this way with God too. Sometimes, we see His presence very closely and keenly in our lives. It is almost as if we are standing right next to Him and we can almost smell Him and hear Him and even feel the sweat on His skin. But at other times, He seems very very far away from us. In those moments, it is possible that He is working MOST intently for our benefit – wrestling the ball back from evil at the other end of the field and bringing it over to us – so that we can score a try and merit eternal salvation.


I was thinking of this game of rugby, and this experience of life, and I realised that it is at those times, when we can only look up at the screen, that we need to find God in other ways… It is then, that God calls us in the coincidences that we notice, or the friends who we meet, or the prayers that we think to pray…


For if we were wise, we would be like the reserve players who do not actually get a chance to play in the game, but instead spend the entire match doing their stretches and racing up and down the field, trying ever harder to get closer and closer to God – and the help Him with the ultimate goal…


Salvation…

For our ultimate goal is Salvation… Eternal Salvation…

And I would run up and down all the days of my life stretching and watching and waiting for my turn to have a chance to be granted just a little fragment of that…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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