Tag Archives: Soccer World cup

Ten Bridesmaids: A Soccer Story


This story was first told at Prestbury Methodist Church on Sunday 18 July 2010

   SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (2) Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. (3) The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, (4) while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. (5) The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep. (6) “It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ (7) The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps. (8) Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ (9) ‘No, indeed,’ the wise ones answered, ‘there is not enough for you and for us. Go to the store and buy some for yourselves.’ (10) So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed. (11) “Later the others arrived. ‘Sir, sir! Let us in!’ they cried out. (12) ‘Certainly not! I don’t know you,’ the bridegroom answered.” (13) And Jesus concluded, “Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.


What were ten bridesmaids doing waiting around in the middle of the night for the bridegroom?  Why was the bridegroom so harsh?  Ok, they weren’t ready; they didn’t have enough oil; they messed up.  But you and me, we’d know these foolish bridesmaids. We’d probably say, “You bunch of skelms.  What you doing out in the dark?  Get inside!”  And later, no doubt, we’d tell our bride about her dilly friends.

 The other stories and illustrations Jesus used were all taken from everyday life and were very easy to understand.  So we assume this one would also have made sense to his hearers at the time.  But what is clear to us is that these bridesmaids had a responsibility.  We might not know what that was, but it was important enough to impact on a number of people, including themselves, and to have serious consequences.  It is also clear that relationship with God is not about who we are, but about what we do.

 Given those truths, how would Jesus have told the story if he was speaking to us, in South Africa today, after a most successful soccer world cup?

And what if, instead of talking about the people involved, Jesus told it from the point of view of one of the characters?

 Let’s listen….



I was always mad about soccer, ever since my folks gave me a soccer ball when I was two years old. I’d make my Dad play with me. Where I grew up soccer was everything, and being able to play like Lucas Radebe was every kid’s dream.

By the time I hit high school there were ten of us in the neighbourhood. We used to kick a ball around together in someone’s yard, or on the street, or down in the park. We were at different schools but we had all grown up together. Well, except Midget—he was the shortest of the group, obviously—he came later, but in spite of his height, he fitted in pretty quickly.


Phillip and I would compete for best placekicker. We could hit anything at 20 paces. We also did trick shots like scissor kicks. I know we were just showing off but, hey, if you’ve got a talent there’s no point hiding it under a bowl. Phillip would practice like mad but I was lucky, more of a natural. I could usually beat him and tackle the ball away from him. It made him really mad. I think that’s why he worked so hard; he was determined to get the better of me but I could still hold my own. Whenever I went to his place I’d find him kicking the ball or bouncing it on his feet like the soccer stars do. And when I left him after we’d been playing in the park, or wherever, I knew he’d go straight back to practicing—sometimes spending an hour or more at it. I’m so glad I didn’t need to do that. It would have taken all the fun out of it.

We were going to play professional soccer one day. We dreamed of the day a talent scout would come to our neck of the woods and spot us. We’d be the talk of the town. What a life we’d have!

Phillip also worked pretty hard at his books. Me? I just did enough school work to get by and keep my folks off my back. “Could do better,” was a regular comment on my reports but I didn’t care. Once I became a soccer star no one would care about my grades. 

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World Cup: A Challenge to the Church


What can anyone write about in South Africa today other than the Soccer World Cup?  Next week we might be tired of it, but this week it’s everywhere.  

Colleagues, friends and family, the petrol pump attendant, the guy at the tire shop who fixed my puncture, and even a domestic worker on her way home from work; everyone watched South Africa’s opening game against Mexico on Friday; everyone is excited about  Bafana Bafana’s performance.  (By the way, would someone please tell Microsoft that Bafana is a word and it’s spellchecker should not try to change it to Banana, and that Bafana Bafana is also perfectly acceptable.)  Did I say “acceptable”.  For goodness sake, they were outstanding; they were amazing; indeed, they did us proud.  I haven’t felt this ‘connected’ to my fellow South Africans since the first democratic elections in 1994.

John van der Laar, on his website, Sacredise, agrees, but bemoans the fact that the Church seems incapable of uniting in the way that sport does.  John’s thoughts inspired me along a similar path and I found myself asking what the difference is.

Perhaps soccer, and sport generally, is ‘out there’.  It’s public knowledge (kind of hard to keep the World Cup quiet).  I might not be sure whether you are a Blue Bull fan or Stormer supporter (Sharks supporters usually have a hangdog, can-it-possibly-get-worse, look about them).  But I do know that everyone I have seen, or spoken to, or heard about, was watching the game somewhere on Friday and cheering madly for the SA team.  When my puncture was being fixed, or when I filled up with petrol, it was the most natural thing to say, “They made us proud.”  And a broad grin followed and the conversation flowed.

On another day, at another time, there would be nothing to say.  We would talk about the job at hand, get it done and, with a thanks and a wave, I’d be  gone.  There are, of course, gregarious types who will strike up a conversation anywhere, anytime; but I’m talking about people like me who need a good excuse to start talking to strangers.

r3134925534In Church (however sad it may be, or incompatible with our beliefs) we are strangers to one another.  Of course we have in common someone who is much more important than the soccer, the World Cup, or even FIFA.   We should be able to talk about Jesus, and about our faith, and about our struggles, with our Church family even more naturally than we talk about soccer.  But I wonder.

Have we perhaps learned that those who talk about Jesus the most are often those who are most judgemental and dogmatic in what they say?  Have we perhaps learned that those who ask about our faith (like those who ask after our health) don’t really want to know about our struggles?  They want to know that all is well.  Any hint of stress or brokenness is looked down on, pitied, prayed for, but not engaged—except to tell us how we ought to ‘fix it’.

Is our estrangement from one another perhaps because the only thing that we, as Christians, have to offer the world (the only thing that marks us out) is love, and we just haven’t learnt how to give love freely?   We think we know how we ought to behave, how we ought to think, what we ought to believe, and yes, how we should worship and what we should sing.  We find it just too hard to let go of all that and simply love.  Rules empower us; rules show us who’s right and who’s wrong; rules allow us to include and exclude.  Rules make us feel safe.  Love is so very different.  With love, it’s the relationship that matters, not the rules.  You don’t need me to point out your failures; you know them only too well.  And if you don’t, well, you ain’t going to listen to me.  But if I take the time and the trouble to engage with you, to listen and walk alongside you, to eschew judgement and embrace friendship?  Well, I reckon that would get your attention.  It would surely get mine.

FansWhat has drawn us together in South Africa is the positive.  The delight at being ready for the World Cup and welcoming the world; the excitement of Bafana’s preparation that made us hope again; the delight at our team’s performance against Mexico.  Yes, there were some gaps in our preparation; yes, we missed some scoring opportunities against Mexico (but thank the Lord, they did too); yes, there was some indiscipline and our defence leaked.  But, right now, we’re not talking about that.  Next week maybe but, right now, South Africans are united because we are simply enjoying the moment and delighting in the positive.

Dare I let the Spirit teach me to focus on the positive in other peoples lives?  To focus on what God is doing in them, rather than on what is still to be done?  To build them up, rather than tear them down?  Can I simply enjoy and dwell on what delights and excites them, rather than try and make them do what delights and excites me?

I will make that my prayer.


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