Only once have I missed the AFL Grand Final, and that was in 1999. We were living in London at the time, but even then, I woke up at 4 in the morning to read the then minute by minute updates that were being published on the internet (yes, this was before the days of live-streaming).
It doesn’t matter whether my team is playing on Grand Final day or not, it’s un-Melbourne not watch and enjoy the game.
There will be 100,000 people filling the MCG this afternoon and living out their love for football, with millions more watching on television at home or at the pub.
Where ever one walks in the city, there are kids and adults dressed up in their football colours. Houses are fitted out in black and white, and the very rare and very brave, yellow and blue. Everywhere you look, men, women and children are wearing footy jumpers and scarves. The only news today is about this single game of football. Football fans are not hard to spot: they are committed to supporting their team, they’re enthusiastic, they attend matches and if they can’t they will watch it on tv, they talk about footy at work, there are footballs lying around the house to hold and caress.
Think about how much interest we take in the footy, how many conversions begin or end with footy, how passionate we get during the game (even if our team isn’t playing), and how the entire day revolves around the AFL.
Our own household has descended into the deep navy blues, pondering the good old days of 1995 and 1987, remembering that we are still the most successful club in AFL history, and will again rise…maybe.
Grand Final day is so important to Melbourne that we now celebrate a public holiday on the day before Grand Final!
For the 3.5 Melbournians who don’t love footy, there will be something else that you’re passionate about – art, music, gardening, cooking, technology, spending time with friends, travel.
To prove that I’m not just another nodular barely-civilised football fan (can’t think why Collingwood comes to mind!), remember that famous balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet where Juliet is standing outside in the night sky and Romeo sees her, and is smitten and starts talking to himself,
‘See how she leans her cheek upon her hand. O that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek.’
Romeo would be satisfied to be a glove on her hand so that he could touch her cheek. It’s all very romantic, but that’s what happens with passions and desires. Whatever the heart most desires, we think and talk and dream about it.
Football, music, and poetry are among the many good things we enjoy under a good God, and every year Grand Final week makes me wonder why Christians don’t exhibit similar enthusiasm for the good news of Jesus Christ?
Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote,
“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race.”
I think of Jesus who as he approached Jerusalem, wept, and said,
‘“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace’
Where is this Gospel driven passion today? Where is the deep-heart-convinced desire to tell Melbournians the Gospel? We are passionate about many things and yet the purposes of God in Christ is rarely one of them.
Imagine if Christians preferenced time with Church over lazy weekends and sporting events?
Imagine if Christians gave just a portion of their football fanaticism to the Great Commission instead?
Charles Spurgeon once remarked, ‘‘Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”
The thing is, while we may give intellectual assent to Surgeon’s question, what we truly desire is evident by what we give our energies too and the decisions we make in life.
Imagine, if Christians put first in their lives, God’s mission into the world?
Like everyone, I have limited time and energy, and so I need to be wise and ensure that how I live is being driven by the reality that I am persuaded is of greatest value. Friends, make it the Gospel.
FYI Collingwood by 11 points!
(This is a revised version of the article that was first published for the GF in 2015)