This post was written by our World Cup correspondent, Sam Bush.

Every four years, there is a striking contrast between the Olympics and the World Cup. The older child (born in 1896)—noble, beautiful, self-aware—verses the wilder youngster who would rather skip the opening ceremonies and just play the game. We congratulate the Olympics for making the world a better place, but people seem to care more about the Cup. Why? I think because it’s more fun. The closing ceremonies of the Olympics is the commencement address that no one remembers, but the whistle for that first kick-off is like the bell on the last day of class that tells you school is out for summer.

The World Cup is a beautiful thing. For 90+ minutes, the vast world shrinks to a 120-foot long, 80-foot wide patch of grass.  Where, moments before, cultural and political differences kept us at a distance, people from Chi-town to China suddenly have a singular focus. As the novelist Teju Cole writes, “We live in different time zones, out of sync but aware of each other. Then the game begins and we enter the same time: the time of the game.” This communal phenomenon, however, doesn’t happen out of good will. We are not gathered for the purpose of peace. While the Olympics presents itself as an altruistic celebration of the human spirit, The World Cup is all about one specific thing—soccer. Any togetherness that we feel is simply a fruit of the thing we collectively love.

Perhaps, for this reason, the United States doesn’t seem to understand the Cup. We would rather be praised for making an effort, for bravely putting our cultural differences aside (at least while everyone’s watching), for giving Jamaica a chance at bobsledding. Participating with 220 other countries helps us feel diplomatic and gracious, even if we don’t end up winning every match. So, if it’s all about the soccer (and, therefore, not about us) then what’s the point? If we don’t win the trophy, surely we’ll be rewarded for our good intentions, right? No? That seems unfair.

The world loves the World Cup for the same reason I love Mockingbird. While the formalities of church life are beautiful and life-giving, they are not always at the forefront of what I actually care about. Of course, encountering God in liturgy and even Scripture is often a powerful experience (and an important one), but I’m glad He can also be found in the creature comforts of everyday life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, his grace can be found in Friday Night Lights, Mad Men and Paul Simon, and I’m grateful for Mockingbird for recognizing Him in unexpected places. Thanks be to God that our Creator does not delight in sacrifice or take pleasure in burnt offerings, but was Himself a perfect offering. Thanks be to God that His grace meets us in the things we love, in the stories we read and in the games we play. Thanks be to God that He cares about us.