Tonight marks the start of one of the great traditional sporting contests, ‘The Ashes’. Whilst some people cannot fathom why anyone would want to follow cricket when its premiere form takes up to five days to complete, aficionados understand the intrigue of the ebbs and flows which have marked the game’s evolution. These also provide us with an interesting picture of life itself.
Australia and England fist competed at this ‘Test’ level in Melbourne in 1877 (whereas the first international match was between the USA and Canada in 1844). When the unthinkable happened and Australia actually beat the English on their home soil in 1882, one newspaper published a mock obituary suggesting that English cricket had died and been cremated and its ashes taken to Australia. As a practical joke, the ashes of a burnt bail were presented in a small urn to the English captain on the next visit to Australia when he came to the suburban Victorian town of Sunbury. Teams have vied for the perpetual trophy in ‘Ashes’ contests ever since, even though it seldom actually leaves its London home.
Our lives are also a continuing struggle on account of a long-ago death. Christ died for us and we today ‘compete’ in his honour for a lasting trophy (1 Corinthians 9:25). And just as a test match is not won in a session but played out over up to fifteen of them, we can have our own little ‘run of outs’ but then live to fight another day. When life ‘bowls us over’ or ‘hits us for six’, we face up to it yet again and fight our innings out. The spirit of the Ashes might see 22 men in white, though at times despondent, live to fight another day. How much more, then, do we fight on knowing that we are empowered by the Spirit of Christ who makes us truly alive (Romans 8:11)?
“Stop spiritualising,” I hear you say. Indeed. Take the parallel for what it is, and let the games begin!