Last night I was torn. Ipswich Town (my favourite team) were playing in the second leg of the League Cup Semi Final against Arsenal, and went into the match with a slender 1-0 lead. The possibility of them reaching a final at Wembley was dangling temptingly in front of me. And the match was being shown live on BBC TV.
I had also been invited to speak at the Essex University Christian Union last night, about Noah. I have spoken at their meetings before and enjoy the experience. But the meeting was at the same time as the match.
Because it was a prior engagement and because it would have been incredibly rude and (to put it simply) WRONG to cancel because of a football match on the telly I went to the CU. There was no contest. I stayed at home and watched the football.
No! Not really. Honest! I went to the CU meeting and I was blessed and encouraged by the experience (and hope they were too). I spoke about Noah, showed a clip from Evan Almighty (link to trailer here) which helped me try to imagine what it must have been like for Noah when God told him to build the ark and shared some thoughts about Noah and his faith in God – about what that tells us about our own faith in God. I was pleased that my thoughts did not turn to the football match until after the meeting had ended and I was heading back to the car. I checked on my phone and it said the score was still 0-0 and there were only about 15 minutes left. That meant Ipswich were nearly in the final!
When I got in the car and started the engine, the radio came on and the commentators revealed that the score was actually 2-0 to Arsenal, 2-1 on aggregate. The website my phone connected to was very slow to update. (Possibly a theme here about churches needing to keep up with culture to be relevant). Ipswich had played valiantly but were now being overwhelmed. The final score on the night was 3-0. Not a disgrace against one of the best (and richest) teams in the country.
What got to me was the range of emotions. Elation and anticipation of victory turned to disappointment and resignation to defeat in the matter of a couple of seconds. That’s a big mood swing! (I am all right now. Accepting defeat is all part of being a supporter of Ipswich). But how would it be if it was the other way around?
The Easter narratives have that sort of experience. One moment Jesus’ followers and friends are in despair because he has been executed and then his body had been taken from the grave (so they thought) and the next he was standing there in front of them. No wonder he had to tell them not to be afraid! Their poor brains would have found it almost impossible to assimilate, even though he had told them this is what would happen. I don’t blame them. After all nobody else in history has claimed to be coming back to life on the third day after they have been killed, and then has done it.
In my imagination I am trying to reverse my emotional experience from last night and trying to imagine a bit more of what it was like to be in the locked room when Jesus appeared. It sends a shiver down my spine!
That’s a great way of experiencing the Bible – put yourself in the shoes of someone who was there. Ask yourself how they were feeling, what they were doing, and then try to imagine that you are there doing and experiencing the same things. It brings familiar events to life!
If you are tempted to criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you are a long way away when you do criticise them, and you have their shoes as a bonus!