The Millennium stadium in Cardiff is hushed until music resounds as if from the very soil under the turf and the rich cadence of harmonies rise and fall with the singing of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau. (Land of my Fathers). The faces of the Welsh rugby team are scrutinised by the TV camera's as each in turn render their song with fervent heart and mind. The team are not the most beautiful you will ever see. There is evidence of past wounds on the battle hardened faces, a torn ear covered by a head guard, a broken nose reset, shaped like the slopes of Snowdonia. Scars born in the heat of fierce battle. The music swells again 'Guide me O' thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land' as the wind swirls and the sky weighs heavy with Welsh rain.
Suddenly the team break ranks and shuffle into their battle positions. Loose head prop, blindside flanker, scrum half, hooker, second row, full back, these are their unfamiliar names. How the nerves jangle as the first ball is struck high into the heavens and the running begins.
The whole team effort is to score a try :- even the name is barely a celebration. So what does try mean:- to make an attempt or effort to do something, to endeavour, to exert oneself. The whole team intention seems to be to throw the ball which looks more like an ostrich egg backwards in order to move it forwards to win a try. The team enter into battle with the opposition. They are upended, unceremoniously dragged down to the earth and buried alive under bodies and more bodies until breath has no space in lungs on fire. They dive through men built like concrete bunkers rebounding off muscles like iron girders. They dodge and weave and dance past opponents made to look clumsy and awkward stuck in the mud. One kicks the ball high as a cathedral and chases in order to win an advantage. In the morass a strategy unfolds, a plan, a disciplined deliberate tactic to defeat the enemy arises from the mud. The team toss the ball across a line of running men. Magnificent sight this, Welsh men breathing dragon's fire flowing like molten metal as they caress the ball closer to the line. One player throws himself between the goal posts, the ball touches the ground as if a full stop to the poetry in motion.
The stands fall silent as the precious ball is raised on a diminutive rest above the sucking mud and a Welsh kicker wipes his boots on his calves. He measures the kicking distance with geometry in his eyes, turns through ninety degrees and kicks the ball high above the turf, the teams, the goal posts and converts the try.
Guide me Oh thou great Redeemer resounds once more.
We are caught up in this world's battles from life's first cry. Amazingly Jesus the Mighty Warrior has experienced all first hand for us. He has fought and won on our behalf and stands with His glorified battle scars and bears witness to heaven and earth that His victory is absolute. That He has experienced the keenest battle and defeated hell and death itself shows His passionate involvement with each of us because He has not left us to fight alone. He is our hiding place where we shelter in the heat of the battle. He is the One we hide ourselves in secure as He fights for us.
Sometimes being on the battlefield feels a bit like running forward with all your might only to discover that wisdom dictates that you must throw the ball backwards in order to win, that you will encounter fierce opponents and end up in a sea of mud, that you will be weary and that team work is costly. The people around you bear the wounds and scars of many a skirmish with the enemy. Wounds that have been made beautiful and robust again with Christ's healing love The team is focused on carrying the precious love of Christ, the gospel of Salvation through the enemy ranks to bring about a touchdown, a breakthrough, a triumphant rout of the enemy. An individual may cross the line, score the try but he is merely the final player in this orchestrated team run.
See those if you will who stand applauding, cheering us on, a crowd of witnesses, Those victorious ones who have won the race and received their victory crowns watch with holy, bated breath as we run between the goal posts and score a try.