Thursday 15 December 2022 World Cup 14 “The spine of the team”
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Pundits deploy a phenomenally huge arsenal of cliches and tense-mangling to bring their football commentary alive. Watching world cup games with a cliche bingo sheet can defray some of the boredom! “early doors”, “parking the bus”, “a game of two halves”, “he’s went right through him”, “schoolboy defending”, “he’s gave 110%”, “a bit of handbags” – they’ll all be in there somewhere, and alongside them, eventually, will come some comment about the “spine of the team”.
The “spine of the team” is what it sounds like – the backbone, a dependable, flexible base around which a team is built. There are no rules about who can be in it, but it usually involves the goalkeeper, a defender or two and a couple of midfielders, maybe also a striker. It’s usually a collection of experienced, skillful, regular players who, to draw on another cliche, are “the first names on the team sheet”.
And just like the passage from Romans, there are parts of the body which get the most praise – the strikers and attacking midfielders. But your knowing pundit will point to the often unsung impact of “the spine of the team” without which the starlets could not perform. The world cup will have a Golden Boot award to give to the striker with the most goals, but there will be no Golden Forehead award for the centre-back with the most defensive headers from corners.
Most churches have a “spine of the team”, the solid, dependable, reliable, faithful, week-by-week workers for the Kingdom of God who stay when ministers come and go; who are there to open up and to lock up; who CAN make time for that visit; who WILL pray each day for the church and its life and the community in which it is set; who can work the urn and will bring the milk. Let’s make sure we always honour the spine of our teams.
Loving God, at the end of the day When we’ve given 110% When we’ve left nothing on the pitch When there are some tired legs out there When it’s a long trip home to Rotheram When the next goal is the crucial one When the keeper’s had a mare Remind us that it’s a game of two halves It’s still early doors and you invite us to be the spine of your team. Amen
The Rev’d Phil Nevard, Minister in three Cambridgeshire villages