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That John Terry moment

To enable pupils to understand that the Christian faith offers the possibility of a second chance.

by Paul Hess

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To enable pupils to understand that the Christian faith offers the possibility of a second chance.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. The whole season came down to this moment. A bitter rivalry between two of England’s top clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United, was being played out on the biggest stage in Europe – the Champions’ League final. Predictably, there was nothing to separate the teams after 90 minutes and then an unbearably tense period of extra time. The score was 1–1 and the game was to be decided on penalties.

    And then a moment of luck for Chelsea. The United superstar Ronaldo missed his penalty and the Cup was surely theirs. They were to become European Champions for the first time in history – in Moscow in front of their Russian owner. The script was written, this was their moment of destiny.

    Up stepped their inspirational captain John Terry, a man who could handle the pressure. The world held its breath. Terry slipped, the ball hit the post and United turned out victors. The images at the end of the match are now iconic: Terry in tears and inconsolable.
  2. Terry is, of course, not unique. Memorable moments of failure are part of the great drama of sport. In the recent Beijing Olympics one of the most dramatic races was the women’s 100 metres hurdles. The wonderfully named Lolo Jones was the clear favourite. She was fit and focused and within seconds of the race starting she was comfortably ahead of the field.

    She saw the finish line only metres away – four years of blood, sweat and tears were about to climax in Olympic glory. And then, she struck the second last hurdle and in an instant (because of a few centimetres) the dream of those four years was gone. The rest of the field swept past her and Lolo Jones had to face the fact that women she knew she could beat were to take the medals. She was left with nothing.
  3. One thing is for sure – until the end of their lives, hardly a day will pass when John Terry and Lolo Jones won’t look back and say ‘If only… If only I could have that moment again.’ (For quotations of what John Terry said about this, look up the Sunday Mirror, 25 August 2008).
  4. As is so often the case, sport reflects life. There are many times when we get it badly wrong, when we wish we could take back the words we said or undo our actions. There are moments when our selfishness and pride get the better of us. Sometimes we take a wrong turn in life, ending up with the wrong crowd or in the grip of bad habits. There are many times when – like John Terry or Lolo Jones – we wish we could have the moment again.
  5. The good news is that – in a very real sense – we can. At the very heart of the Christian gospel is the idea that in Christ God gives us a new beginning, a completely fresh start – that our past mistakes are wiped away.
  6. Of course, this does not mean that we don’t have to face the consequences of our wrong choices or past actions. But it does mean that we don’t have to be chained to the past for ever and we can know that we are forgiven. As the Bible says, we can become ‘new creations’.

Time for reflection

Listen to the story of Zacchaeus from the Gospel of Luke. He had certainly had a John Terry moment – or series of moments! Zacchaeus had chosen to work as a tax collector for the hated Romans and to cheat his own people. He was very wealthy, but he had no friends – and it is clear that he deeply regretted the choices he had made and longed for a new start. This is what happened when he met Jesus.

Read Luke 19.1–10.

Prayer

Lord, we ask forgiveness for the moments in our lives where we have got things wrong,
where we have sinned against you and others.

We thank you for the gift of new beginnings.

Amen.

Publication date: October 2008   (Vol.10 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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