“Nice to hear your home fans booing you – that’s loyal supporters,” was how England’s Wayne Rooney reacted to hearing boos from the England supporters following a very poor England performance against Algeria.
I can understand how he felt. The team did not play well. Individuals played badly. He was obviously very disappointed with what had happened and how people had reacted. But when you know you have done badly you want people to encourage you not to put you down. You want to feel that people appreciate that you tried even if you did not succeed. You may feel that people were being disloyal by booing.
However… (and I hope you expected the ‘however’) I think Wayne’s comments reveal something else. To me they suggest that he did not realise how much the performance (or lack of it) meant to the supporters. He did not realise how much it had cost so many of them to be there. He did not understand that he and his team mates are living the dream for many people – paid a fortune to play football. He failed to grasp what it is like to be someone who believes in the passion, ability and honour of the England football team and feel let down when it does not seem to be there in the players they support.
Churches are always in danger of having a similar attitude. We may be tempted to think that people ought to come to us. We may be tempted to think that people ought to support what we are doing. We may forget that people can feel let down if the church fails to deliver what it promises. We may believe that if we turn up week by week everything will go well for us and ‘adequate’ will suffice. We may wonder why people complain about what we do or how we do it.
If we find ourselves in that situation I think we should do what Wayne should have done. Stop. Listen. Reflect. Think. Ask the Boss before reacting. Is there truth in what we are hearing? Have we taken people for granted? Are we forgetting our privileged position as people who have been given the most wonderful message in the world and need to show it, live it, tell it?
A Scottish footballer died and arrived at the gates of heaven where an angel awaited him.
“Now,” said the angel, “before you enter here, is there anything that happened to you on earth upon which you would like your mind set at rest?”
The footballer hesitated for a moment and then said: “There is one thing. I used to play for St Mirren and in the Scottish Cup Final we were playing Rangers and I scored two goals. I am sure one of them was off-side and I used my hand to control the ball before I scored the second one. We won 2-1 and won the Cup, but it has always bothered me since then. I can’t get it out of my mind.”
“Oh,” replied the angel, “We know all about that up here. We see everything. But don’t worry, that will not stop you coming into heaven.”
The footballer was immensely relieved. “Oh, thank you so much, St Peter,” he said. “That is a real relief.”
“Enjoy heaven, my child,” the angel replied. He paused and then continued. “By the way, I’m not St Peter.”
“Then who are you?” asked the footballer. “I thought St Peter met everyone at the pearly gates.”
“St Peter’s having a day off today,” said the angel. “I’m St Mirren.”