Can we unite under the banner of Christ?

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Over the last three weekends I have been watching the British and Irish Lions playing rugby in Australia.

There had been great excitement generated after the Lions had clung on for a nail biting win in the first test in Brisbane. However last week I had to tear myself away from the television in order to travel back home to Saint Brigid’s Carnhill for a baptism. I had left the TV on live pause so I could come back and watch the match and hopefully no one would tell me the score in the mean time. I didn’t have one but three separate Christenings that afternoon. After the first baptism the conversation took a dangerous turn when one of the grandfathers asked had I seen the rugby. Before he could say any more I interrupted by explaining: ‘No, but I’m recording it.’ Thankfully he didn’t tell me the score but made the comment: ‘You’ll enjoy the last few minutes’. I only had another two hours to go before I could return to the house and allow myself to be put out of my agony.

When I rushed back I ran up the stairs and hit the live pause button and fast forwarded to the last five minutes when Australia took the lead after scoring a try. It was nail biting stuff as the Lions were given a last minute penalty from half way to snatch victory. I still remembered the earlier comment: ‘You’ll enjoy the last few moments.’ I can’t explain the feeling of bewilderment as the Lion’s kicker missed and I left dejected. All this week the discussions had revolved around team selection and locally the attention focused on how two Irish players had been dropped. This allowed cracks to develop in what had been a united front as some dissenting voices hoped the Lions would now be beaten.

It’s not often all the people of these Islands can be united under the banner and I was delighted when the British and Irish Lions won the third and final test to claim victory in the test series for the first time in 16 years. It didn’t matter how many players from each nation took to the field, the important point was the shared sense of identity and purpose. When Jesus sent out the 70 disciples to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God we can see echoes of the Old Testament world view concerning the inclusiveness and universality of God’s mission. The number seventy represented what was understood as the sum total of all nations of the known world.

Through the way we live our lives do we offer peace to one another, do we build up the weak and fragile, and do we welcome the lonely and the rejected? Through what we do and say, do we alienate and marginal people, do we tear and break down, causing violence to friendships and relationships. We ask for the strength and the courage to be instruments of God’s kingdom offering peace to a broken world. We unite under the one banner of being God’s children, brothers and sisters in Christ.