notes from a small curate
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Parable of the good Man Utd fan
Good Shepherd 11/7/2004 (Baptism service)
Amos 7.7-17, Luke 10:25-37
In a baptism service we all make promises. The parents, the godparents and all the other people gathered to support them, we all find ourselves saying things which we might not normally think of saying, but are special and important words. They are about being determined to do all we can to live a Christian life, to support the child being baptised and the community we all belong to.
Often it's hard to know what it means to live a Christian life; it's not only about coming to church, because that's only a tiny part of how we spend our lives. It's more about how we live outside church. Today's bible story gives us some clues. It's about loving our neighbour. It's an old story but still relevant today; if you change the characters just a little bit it gets more meaningful again....
Carl is a teenage football supporter. He was very excited because his Dad had got them both tickets for Liverpool's match away at Old Trafford.
He went to a lot of home games with his dad but this was his first ever away game and what a one to choose.
The only drawback was that his Dad had got the tickets through a friend at work who had contacts with Man United, so the seats were among the United fans.
But Carl thought he could cope with that ok; just going there would be a great experience.
And the game itself WAS - in fact it couldn't have been better because for the first time in years Liverpool got a victory at Old Trafford - one-nil and fully deserved. When they scored Carl and his Dad couldn't help themselves - they jumped up and punched the air with delight - and they noticed that they weren't the only ones doing it - they were surprised to see a lot of other Liverpool fans sitting in the seats around them too. After that they all made a lot of happy noises until the end of the game.
Afterwards, though, it all went wrong for Carl. In the crush of people leaving the ground, he got separated from his Dad and swept off among the United fans. Then there was trouble. Some of the noisier Liverpool supporters and some of the angrier United supporters started shoving each other around. Then a few punches were thrown. Then some kicking. And before he knew it, Carl was in the middle of a big fight. And he got hit. He fell over. He got kicked. He felt blood in his mouth. He was hurt.
Carl managed to crawl away from the trouble, and found himself down a side street near the ground. It was quiet; he felt inside his jacket for his mobile phone. "I'll call Dad and he can come and find me", he thought. His phone had gone - probably it fell out during the scuffle.
Carl felt weak now. He sat down and felt the blood running down his face. And cried. "Someone, please, come and help me" he said, inside.
After a while a car pulled down the road, a big flash car which had come out of the players car park. It drove right past and as it did Carl saw the face of someone he knew looking out at him - it was his favourite Liverpool player, the one who'd scored today, the one who's picture he had on a poster on his bedroom wall.
Then a door opened in a big house opposite. It was next to a church. The man coming out was wearing a clerical collar; obviously a vicar. He looked across a Carl then quickly opened his car and drove away. "Hypocrite" Carl said under his breath. Then he felt faint. And then it all went dark.
When he woke up Carl saw som people standing over him. People his own age. He saw their shirts and scarves. They were Man United fans. He screamed. He thought he was in for another kicking.
"It's ok, don't worry" one of them said. "We'll get you cleaned up." Turned out he lived in a house down that road. Named Dave. They took Carl into the house where Dave's Mum cleaned up the cut above his eye, and said, "We'll go to the ground to find your Dad and then we can all take you to the hospital, just to make sure you're ok."
And that's what happened. And thanks to the intervention of some kind Manchester United fans Carl's day out ended happily too.
You know the moral of the story: your neighbour is the one who will stop to help you when you're in trouble. The surprise is: often it's the person you'd least expect it to be.
And the lesson for us is: if we want to be good neighbours we should be prepared to help the person least expecting us to do that. The person we least like, the person we have the least in common with. That's part of what the Christian life is about, something for us to remember as we make our vows today.