This weekend sees America’s largest sporting event take place – the Superbowl. It is the culmination of the American Football season with the two teams – the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos – facing each other with the winning team being crowned World Champions. Millions around the world watch the game and millions of dollars will be spent as a result of the game. This year, the game is hosted in San Francisco and not everyone in the city is happy that they are hosting the event. It is not just a small minority who are being vocal, the game seems to have divided large numbers of the population. One of the main issues concerns the homeless residents of the city who have been told by the city’s mayor to leave the area around the main Superbowl venue. People sleeping rough have been forcibly removed much to the anger of a large number of the city’s residents who would rather see the cost of hosting such an event be spent on housing for the city’s poor communities.
Such action is not unique to the authorities running San Francisco. In other cities around the world that have hosted a major sporting event, the problems of the area have been ‘hidden’ or ‘moved on’ to protect the image of the city or the event. Similar claims were made in Brazil during the last World Cup and even in our own city there were rumours of a crackdown on street homeless in Gloucester last year during the Rugby World Cup. Sometimes, there are no alternatives but to move people on. On Wednesday, I had to ask a gentleman in his sleeping bag on our hall doorstep to move as we had a funeral service taking place and so I needed our entrance clear. On other occasions it is not appropriate to be moving a problem elsewhere for someone else to resolve simply because we don’t want it on our doorstep.
This week sees the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time for Christians to prepare for the events of Easter – a time 2000 years ago when the local authorities, be it religious or Roman, sought to move on a problem by eliminating the cause. Thankfully, God didn’t choose to ignore the problem of separation from humanity, nor did he seek to get rid of rebellious humankind. He dealt with it through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Next week also sees us begin our annual Self-Denial Missionary Appeal – a time for us to consider other countries within our Salvation Army world and rather than ignore their issues and move them on for someone else to deal with, we have the opportunity through our self-denial giving to help them in some way. It’s not possible to fix all of life’s problems, however, some of them can be fixed, we don’t have to move them all on.