The Fergascension. To retire and ascend to the realms of football gods. I’ve just invented a new word and equated Sir Alex Ferguson with Jesus. Oops. Not good for a Liverpool fan.
They’ve often wondered what would happen when he would go. Now he is gone. But… not gone. Forever he will glare down in the words emblazoned on the stands; forever he will be present loitering in corridors as Director and Ambassador (ok not forever, unless he really is Jesus). Retired and ascended to the realms of football gods. The Fergascension (there it is again). I can feel a BBC montage coming on.
So the succession narrative begins. How do you find a new ‘you’, when nobody else can be ‘you’? If you think that’s a problem for Alex Ferguson, imagine being Jesus. Sir Alex has started a momentum – a football team is never finished, completed, unless you can control time, tackles, temperament and the temptation of mercenaries. Jesus had started a momentum, a movement – not yet a church – and he was about to hand this momentum over.
Handing over momentum is a tough call. Much easier to hand over a completion than a momentum. Momentums can easily be changed, the identity of the founder can be lost; completions are, well, completed. As a twitchy and control-freaky minister, perhaps I speak for myself. And football managers.
Jesus had to sit down. He had to sit down at the right-hand of God, in the place of power. So he slipped away, in contrast to football managers, leaving the completion of his work in the untrained and untested fragile hands of men and women whose food he had shared, feet he had washed, who’s tears he had wiped and by whom he had been betrayed, shunned, misunderstood and reunited. And who had never led a momentum. Not a good succession policy.
But in contrast to Sir Alex, Jesus is still in charge. He has not retired only to stalk the corridors of power with a hairdryer and a trophy cabinet. He has not retired at all (you cannot retire from being God); he has not even handed power over to us (with that power we would die) (or something); but greater and more mysteriously he has allowed us to share in being him.
To share in being him?
This means that we share in his power, but we also share in his suffering. As we become his body, we are that body broken as well as that body resurrected. That’s some succession narrative. Do we really want that job? Without going all Dan Brown, is it a poisoned chalice? Not as much as being Chelsea manager, I guess.
Jesus handed his momentum over to us, and still we carry it, sometimes bouncing it wildly or losing it in the wind, sometimes dragging it to a stuttering halt and declaring it a completion; but always Jesus manages to wrestle it from our tight grip or place it back in our outstretched hands, never stalking us and regaling us with tales of his successes because he does not have a cabinet of trophies but a story of death and of resurrection.
He doesn’t have a stand with his name emblazoned on it but a body of followers who are his body and who bear his name.
May we be people who carry Jesus’ momentum with care and with abandon; as the disciples left their hopes for completion in the locked room and followed the momentum of the Spirit into the wild unknown, may we do the same.
Look not to the clouds, for his feet are here.