Sometimes you hear something and you think, that just can't be true. Today I was reliably informed that there was a Psychic pig on This Morning predicting the football results. It turns out it was true after all. A quick YouTube search and you find Phil interviewing the owner of the pig about its abilities. Apparently the pig is the seventh son of the seventh son and therefore endowed with Psychic powers. Perhaps, the owners listened to the Iron Maiden album by the same name. I've included the video below just to show this really happened on TV.
Tonight while England are playing Justin and I will record a podcast asking should we pray for England to win? The strange thing about football and many other things in our loves is they are very religious. Far more religious than Christianity in fact. 19th and 20th century Christianity have focused on what we believe in our minds, doctrines and philosophy. It has played down and in some ways demeaned Christian practice and elevated thinking the right thoughts about God.
This has changed over the last few decades especially within the charismatic movement.
There is something deeply human about the practice of faith be that football or Christianity. Below is a list of practices which are common to both.
1: Wearing special clothes in worship:
2: Singing Songs Together with a Certain Rhythm and with Your Arms in the Air:
Notice that you can sing the old favourite hymns such as, Thine be the glory in a football chant style. The rhythm makes you sway.
3: Having sacred spaces and treating them reverently
Is it just a football ground or is it something more to people?
Are Christians as reverent towards our churches as football fans are to their grounds?
4: Going on pilgrimage to sacred site
These are just a few examples of how humans practice their faith. Football is just one example, Marvel Superheros, Rock Concerts, Shopping and even New Atheists (I'll write about that another time) all practice using dress, pilgrimage, sacred spaces and icons.
The strange thing about the church is that we sometimes discourage these practices We talk about the need to understand what we are doing and what we believe. We play down the importance of sacred spaces and pilgrimage.We have made it about the head and not the heart. Which is strange when Christianity is about building a relationship with God.
Where the two part company
Prayer in many faiths is about magic, about getting God to do what we want him to do for us. Like a consumer of God's power for us. Please God let England win, Please God let me get that job and so on. In many world faiths both ancient and modern God works for us we buy him off with prayers and worship. Christian prayer is different where we share our desires with God and enter a conversation with him. Yes God may act but how he acts is up to him. Also God is a God of order who set the laws of the universe. If he just acted randomly according to our will total chaos would ensue. If he totted up the prayers from one side and then the other an did as he was commanded by us then he would cease to be God. In short we are not in control.
This takes us back to the psychic pig and this week's reading for Sunday. Humans always like to predict the future and use sources to do so. Now the pig is just a bit of a laugh I'm sure, but it plugs into something deep within our human nature. The need for control and certainty.
In our uncertain world the elite use prophets all the time. These people work in offices and are very good with maths. Every time there is a decision by the powerful, one set of prophets will emerge and tell us good things will happen in the future. Then another set of prophets will emerge telling us bad and terrible things will happen in the future. Today prophets are called economists. They work in a similar way to the prophets in ancient times. They give authority to those in power.
This Sunday we read about Amos who tell the king that he is in trouble and will lose the battle. The king isn't happy about this at all. But what Amos predicted came true. Not through magic but through law. The king didn't keep the law, he acted unjustly and his kingdom fell. We may not know how economists make their predictions, just like the ancient people didn't know how their prophets did. But we do know if they come true. The psychic pig gets his predictions wrong as do the economists. So we should be sceptical of both. Both rely on a special call of people who alone can read the signs of the times.
What Amos predicted came true because we can see the same thing in our everyday life. If you behave badly eventually your power will destroy you. It's not magic it's the moral law of God.
What can we learn three from all this?
1: We need to embrace our Christian heritage of worship and not dismiss it as backward or superstitious. We to have more fun in worship and not be so complicated. To use all our senses not just sitting and listening. Nobody begins a football match with, on page 121 half way down the page you say the very long paragraph of text after me, then turn to page 126 and say the ....
2: To see prayer and worship as a natural thing that humans do. To encourage prayer in physical as well as mental and spoken ways.
3: To recognise that when the elite tell us this is a rational and purely scientific world they are flat wrong. Because sometimes I think the church believes that most of all.