The annual State of Origin Rugby League contest captured my interest again this year.
As I viewed the football matches, and the various traditions associated with them—the costumes, the sounds and the (almost) charismatic fervour stemming from the pre-game rituals—I pondered how the rituals of Origin and the worship service tell a similar story.
Because I live in Queensland, the expectation is that I will be a Maroon supporter (curiously pronounced ma-roan by the locals—which is of unknown origin, even when watching the game by the light of the moan). But the fact is, you support the team of your birthplace (which in my case puts me in No Man’s Land). So, I watch the spectacle that is Origin with amused eyes and uncomprehending mind.
As an outsider, I don’t understand Rugby League or its supposedly higher-brow second cousin, Rugby Union. Because I was brought up on a different kind of football (ironically named, because the foot rarely comes into play), I don’t see the subtleties of the game. Perhaps this is because there are seemingly no subtleties—only sheer brute force pounding into the line of the other, some bodies squirming at the bottom of a pile, a few bloodied heads and broken bones, and something called a ‘try’. Even the terminology doesn’t really make sense: if you accomplish the task, shouldn’t it be called a ‘done’ rather than a ‘try?’
At a recent Year 10 camp in the city, I watched the students dress up in their coal maroan shirts and gather in the large roam. I marveled as the religious event unfolded. Congregants gathered and, just like a normal Lutheran worship service, the seats at the back filled up first. Each attendee was wearing the correct colours, identifying their origin. Students sporting outlandish hats, long-sleeved shirts—and a few wearing different tints of makeup—gathered with the teachers in small pods before the ceremony. The national anthem (hymn) was sung by a few. The rules were well known by all, so that when the first whistle was blown, the crowds cheered lustily. Outcomes are often seemingly predetermined, but the spectacle holds so much pageantry that one cannot help being drawn into it.
So it was watching the students and their Origin game. They were involved beyond measure, some shouting so loudly in dismay at the seeming bias of the referees, that they became hoarse. When the game concluded (poorly for the Queenslanders on that occasion), the attendees mutually consoled each other and then headed off to bed, to prepare for another day rife with the dissection of ‘what went wrong’.
I desire that kind of passionate worship. Shouldn’t our own ‘Origins’ of worship produce that kind of intensity? Should we not be singing for the ‘home’ team and, even though we already know the outcome of the contest, can we not be engaged in the passion and drama of the worship?—how Christ’s battle with sin, death and the devil seemed to hang in the balance and then, at the last turn, he overwhelmed his opponent not with a ‘try’ but with a ‘done’.
Reid Matthias is school pastor at Faith Lutheran College, Plainland, Queensland.