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Dear Friends,

Despite all the challenges the last 18 months or so have thrown at us, this year has been a great one for sport and so many are so happy to be able to watch it, and/or take part in it, once again. I recently saw an interview of someone expressing huge joy in their being able to be back in the stadium watching their football club playing once again. Their reaction reminded me of a report I heard a few years ago that initially amazed me and then provoked a deeper reflection.
It was about the German football club, Hamburger HSV, who hade made the decision to build a cemetery for their fans right next to their ground so that they ‘can rest for eternity within earshot of their stadium’. The entrance gates to the cemetery will be in the shape of a goal with the 300-500 graves arranged in the form of terraces around a green ‘pitch’ – and all this for the price of a season ticket!
It would seem that sport, has for many, become a religion – truly a matter of life and death!
Of course, sport does have much to teach us about team work – it’s also character building and good fun and great for our health – but is it really as important as some would seem to suggest – is it really a matter of life and death?
The bible makes it clear than when we ‘over invest’ in someone or something we are committing idolatry – we are worshipping something that is not worthy of such importance or as Psalm 12 puts it, ‘..and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone’.
Can passionately following a football club, even to the grave, transform one’s life? Make someone more loving, peaceful, joyful, patient, self-controlled, gentle, kind, faithful – forever?
This is what God promises for those who put Him first in their lives and it’s why the first two of His commandments are about not worshipping other Gods or making idols for ourselves – because they can never do for us what He can do for us.
We may smile at those Hamburger HSV fans who have become so passionate about their team that they want to be with them for eternity – and think them rather strange. But they challenge us to take a closer look at our own lives – what have we allowed to become the focus of our lives that might also be taking the place that God alone should hold?
The Hamburger HSV club itself also challenges the church. How have they managed to be so successful in making people feel that passionate about following them such that they would gladly be buried next to their club? What lessons might the church learn from Hamburger HSV about making passionate followers?

Yours in Christ,