Devon Dick: Playing football on Good Friday
Tomorrow - Good Friday - when most Christians in Jamaica will commemorate the death of Jesus the Christ as the Saviour of the world, there will be a FIFA-arranged World Cup-qualifying football match at the National Stadium between Jamaica and Costa Rica.
Captain Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation, tried unsuccessfully to get the match rescheduled. Consequently, there will be a religious service before this match.
This idea should not come as a surprise to us, as praying in the public space is a feature of Jamaican life. Does playing on Good Friday mean that a pastor cannot pray at the football match? We pray at Government meetings, political gatherings and campaigns, in schools, when preparing for GSAT, at Cabinet meetings, sporting events, business meetings and on midday on RJR radio station.
The pastor who was chaplain to the Reggae Boyz football team in the 1998 campaign to France once prayed for the footballers to score three goals - one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Ghost. Christians must be careful that our prayers are not a cover for nationalistic feelings. It seems strange that Christians never pray for the opposing football team to win.
Good Friday in our tradition is considered the holiest of days and a is national holiday. Good Friday is seen as a special day because Jesus died on behalf of humankind. We can experience pardon for our sins because of Jesus. Paradoxically, it is through the death of Jesus that death was ultimately conquered and death no longer is to be feared. Jesus' death has destroyed human beings' greatest enemy death. Death, having lost its sting through Jesus, has enabled Christians to live a victorious life with hope.
So there is a place to pause and reflect on the meaning of Jesus' death on Good Friday. This is not an attempt to worship the day, but rather that we engage in congregational worship as a sign of gratitude to God for the death of Jesus on our behalf, and as a commitment to God to likewise embrace living the sacrificial life without counting the cost; without expecting anything in return, and without thinking that our commitment is ever equal to what God deserves.
LIKE A RELIGION
There was a time when a five-day test cricket match would have Sunday as a rest day. However, when they started playing cricket on Sundays, the members of The Boys Brigade, who would volunteer at these matches, withdrew their services. However, that has not stopped Sunday cricket. In fact, Sunday football in England is like a religion, and loyalty of fans is second to none.
There was a time when carnival road march would be on Easter Sunday, a day when most Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, thereby announcing that life conquers death; good triumphs over evil and truth overwhelms falsehood. However, after protest, the carnival event now takes place on Easter Monday. So nothing's wrong with protest action.
Good Friday being a holy day does not mean that the day in and of itself carries moral purity or that God gives an extra blessing on that day. It means that that day is special and should be treated differently from other days. It is a day that we refrain from working for profit and rather concern ourselves with issues dealing with the meaning of life, our purpose in life, family life, congregational worship and relaxation. In fact, in the 18th and early 19th centuries, during the period of slavery in the British West Indies, even the enslaved people were not required to work on Good Friday.
Since the date for the football match has not changed, let us use the match as an opportunity to get the people who will be attending to reflect on Jesus the Saviour by giving tracts and witnessing during the break.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.