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St John’s Southgate

11 Nov 2020

The asterisk

By Tom Hoffmann - Pastor

Earlier in the year, it was suggested that due to COVID, the 2020 AFL Premiership would forever have an asterisk over it.

Meaning that in the panorama of Aussie rules history, the victors would never really be considered triumphant over the best competitors under the fairest conditions.

For a little while, with the interstate hubs and their creation of a different kind of home ground advantage, it seemed that would be the case. Finally, when Port Adelaide and Brisbane finished atop the home and away ladder, some longsuffering Victorian fans, footy-starved and lockdown-loaded, may well have cried, “rigged!” like Donald Trump on election day.

But when Richmond and Geelong faced off in the Grand Final at the Gabba (may the good Lord return it to its rightful home in 2021!), all was forgiven, the asterisk was erased, and if anything, the best team was seen to have won in the face of adversity the likes of which have rarely, if ever, been known in football.

No, 2020 will not be remembered as a basket case of a season. The mighty Tigers and the incomparable Dustin Martin will be spoken of like mythical heroes by tragics sipping beers for many decades to come.

Have you put an asterisk over your 2020? If so, when did you do it? Was it in lockdown one? Or did that come and go quick enough that you thought you’d be able to salvage things? Was it during lockdown two – did you write it off then? Or did you find a way to believe that your year need not be appendaged with parentheses, caveats or your diary dolloped with glops of white-out? I hope so.

Christians are sometimes imagined as people piously ponderous of the great beyond, and as such being those who, consciously or unconsciously, seek to get their name (without any asterisk) on the doorman’s entry-list. That may be a fair description of some faithful folk, but there is a good case to be made for the Christian disposition being one that accepts that the goodness of eternity has been inaugurated already – and that, as we trust in Jesus, we are experiencing it now! Call it a philosophy, call it living a faithful life, call it what you will, but I would say that the Christian scriptures call their readers to see life – all of it – as a gift.

If one is able to receive and embrace the life-gift without devaluing it by noting exceptional circumstances or granting permission to strike things from the record, then there is always beauty to be found. Christians sometimes call this the Way of the Cross. The cross was, of course, an ugly thing – an instrument of torture – but when you see it now, hanging as a piece of jewellery around someone’s neck, chances are it represents the hope that life and love finally prevail over suffering and death, even as the historical reality of the suffering remains.

2020 isn’t over yet. If you’ve already put an asterisk over it, there’s still revision time left. Life, even pandemic-life, can be a blessing – yes, even when it is touched by tragedy. May you find the framing to fix your year’s canvas within the bounds of blessing, so that it can be proudly placed on your mind’s mantle piece. It belongs there, because it’s already been hung in your very own hall inside God’s gallery •

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