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Members of my congregation were somewhat exercised that Brazil appeared on yesterday’s list for intercessions under the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle. Within 14 hours, Australia’s Socceroos were due to play Brazil, the top contenders for the World Cup. How do you intercede for a nation with which one’s own is in contest, even only recreationally? We all know how deeply sporting competitions affect the passions in the psyche, possibly sublimating those used to maintain balance in ancient inter-tribal rivalry. So how do we pray for the opposition?

Honestly!  We first confessed our perplexity given the coming face-off. Then we offered thanksgiving for the vibrancy and joie de vivre that is Brazil’s gift to the world. We prayed for Brazil’s national leadership, particularly in striving for outcomes of justice and mercy for the poor and dispossessed of that nation. We prayed for the church of Brazil in all its expressions and with all its challenges.

The outcome of the match is now well-known. We lost 2-0. Brazil showed why it is Number One, but the newcomers, the Socceroos, revealed a stamina and determination that did us proud. And Aussies love a good party. Nothing could keep them away from participating in Brazil’s celebrations. Better than the riots and destruction sometimes expressed by supercharged fans.

So ends a somewhat narrowly self-focused reflection on the phenomenon of the World Cup as it touched us yesterday.  The phenomenon of the World Cup raises a whole lot of other issues for reflection, but more on that later.

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