speedy service

Bradley Wiggins – photo taken by Simon Ford, used with permission

Today many people across the UK who were not previously ‘into’ cycling are celebrating Bradley Wiggins’ achievement in winning the Tour de France cycle race. To me, the idea of completing one stage is amazing, but to complete the whole Tour and win it is an astonishing achievement. He rightly deserves all the plaudits that he is getting.

But he was part of a team. In cycle racing the rest of the team is as important as the winner. There are members of the Sky team (Bradley Wiggins’ team) whose sole purpose in the whole Tour was looking after Bradley Wiggins. They had to set a good pace; they had to chase down riders who tried to break away from the peleton (the main group of riders); they would drop back to the team car to get drinks and then cycle hard to get back to the front to deliver them; they would surround him so that he did not inadvertently collide with a rider from another team. Some of them cycled their hearts out and received no official recognition, no special jerseys, no cheering crowds. They did get a ‘well done’ from the team manager, a ‘thank you’ from Bradley Wiggins, but for the most part they are anonymous. Even the man who came second, Chris Froome, who is a team-mate of Bradley Wiggins and seems to have done an astonishing job to help him, sacrificing his own dream of winning, has received little attention. When the team wants a sprinter such as Mark Cavendish to win a stage they all work hard to ensure that the race pace is just how it should be and try to make sure he is in the best place to launch his sprint to the line: the rest cruise over the line anonymously, having done their job.

Yesterday morning in church we were looking at team work, in advance of some sporting event happening in London this year, commencing this Friday. We have been using ‘More Than Gold’ as the banner headline under which this series sits. I mentioned the Tour de France teams as an example, but did not have the time to go into detail. I think that if cycle racing had existed in Paul’s day he would have picked it up as a metaphor for church. Most of what we do to help one another goes un-noticed, un-recognised. Much of what we do is to bless or encourage someone else. Sometimes people remember to say ‘thank you’ or realise what has been done and encourage us, and those are cherished moments. In those moments we can hear God’s whisper of blessing to us too. And when the race is over we will hear our team manager say, “Well done.”

But we are not church for our own glory. We are not looking for popular acclaim. We are not expecting the admiration of others. Indeed, if we get that Jesus says that’s all the reward we’ll get. It’s hollow and it is transient. We serve to bless; we bless to encourage; we encourage to strengthen; we strengthen to enable others to serve…

Heaven help us (literally) if we ever lose sight of the tasks to which God has called us and seek fame and glory. Our calling is to serve the ultimate servant by serving others. As we do, we will be good free samples of him and others around us will see him in us.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Two old men were sat outside their house, sipping a glass of wine, as the Tour de France peleton hurtled past at 50 kilometres and hour.

One turned to the other and said, “If they’d left earlier they wouldn’t have to hurry now.”

>the tour

>www.TracLogik.co.ukIt’s been an interesting morning. Colchester is the finish of the 7th Stage of the Tour of Britain cycle race (it finishes completely tomorrow in London). There have been road closures and lots of bicycle-related events in the town centre.

As a local VIP I was invited to attend a Civic Reception to mark the start of the day’s festivities. Actually, the reality is that they invited lots of people, including some religious people and I was on the list for some reason – the only way I am a VIP is if the ‘i’ represents ‘immature’.

Back to the reception. It was very pleasant – tea / coffee and cakes. This was followed by some speeches at the stage at the finish line to mark the start of the day and a walk around Castle Park in Colchester to see all the bicycle-related activities.

Several interesting things will remain with me:

One was the look on a little girl’s face when she was presented with a prize for a competition she’d won. If I had taken a photo I could have subtitled it: ‘immense pride’. She beamed, and the rest of us beamed back.

Another was seeing one of the young people from our church riding her bike in the park, along with about 150 others from schools around the town. It was a moment of mutual almost-recognition. She looked different with a cycle helmet on. I must have looked different in sunglasses. We looked at each other. Paused. Smiled tentatively. And then waved and said ‘hello’ when we were sure who the other person was.

The third thing is that I have signed a pledge to cycle more frequently. That will have a positive effect on my fitness, on the environment, on travel expense claims and I suspect a different effect on my, erm, seat. But I have pledged and intend to try to keep to that pledge.

What do I learn from all of this? To revel in moments of joy – really celebrate them. To look hard for God in all things and all people and try to recognise him. And that good intentions are not enough – sometimes we need to get on our bikes.

Bike jokes

Two blokes are riding along on a tandem, when suddenly, the one on the front slams on the brakes, gets off and starts letting air out of the tires.

The one on the back says: “HEY! What are you doing that for!?”

The first chap says, “My seat was too high and was hurting my butt. I wanted to lower it a bit.”

So the one in the back has had enough. He jumps off, loosens his own seat and spins it round to face the other direction.

Now it’s the first guy’s turn to wonder what’s going on. “What are you doing?” he asks his friend.

“Look mate,” says the rider in the back, “if you’re going to do stupid stuff like that, I’m going home!!”

Jack and Jill have just climbed Le Alp de Huez, one of the steepest peaks in the Alps on their tandem.

“Phew, that was a tough climb” said Jill, leaning over, breathing hard. “That climb was so hard, and we were going so slow, I thought we were never going to make it.”

“Yeah, good thing I kept the brakes on,” said Jack, “or we’d have slid all the way back down!”

A very devout cyclist dies and goes to heaven. Saint Peter meets him at the gate. First thing the cyclist askes is if there are bicycles in heaven.

“Sure,” says St. Peter, “let me show you,” and he leads the guy into the finest Velodrome you can imagine.

“This is great,” the cyclist says.

“It certainly is,” says St. Peter. “You will have a custom bike and the best cycling clothes you’ve ever seen, and your personal masseuse will always available.”

As they speak a blur streaks by them on the boards riding a gold plated bike.

“Wow!” the cyclist exclaims. “That guy was so fast that can only be Lance Armstrong!”

“No,” says St. Peter, “that was God on the bike, but he thinks he’s Lance Armstrong.”

A pedestrian stepped off the curb and into the road without looking one day and promptly gets knocked flat by a passing cyclist.

“You were really lucky there,” said the cyclist.

“What on earth are you talking about! That really hurt!” said the pedestrian, still on the pavement, rubbing his head.

“Well, usually I drive a bus!” the cyclist replied.

I want to ride my bicycle

I have just bought a new bike.  Nothing astounding about that (except that it means I will be getting more exercise).  What intrigued me was the variety of bikes available now.  Aside from the variety of kids’ bikes and vehicles (my son was trying to persuade me to get a pink battery-powered ‘quad bike’) there are so many options:

BMX Bike, Mountain Bike, Town Bike, Hybrid Bike, Folding Bike, Battery-assisted Bike, Road Bike, Sprint Bike, Trials Bike, Unicycle, Tricycle, Tandem… it’s enough to make your head spin, never mind the bike wheels.

I have gone for a relatively modest hybrid bike, which is what happens when you cross a mountain bike with a town bike.  It’s pretty comfortable (no razor’s edge saddle like I had on an old racing bike), pretty sturdy and pretty tame.

I have to be careful though because the police are cracking down on cycling offences.  An over zealous traffic cop stopped the vicar on his bicycle. After checking the bike thoroughly and finding nothing wrong he had to let the vicar go. “You will never arrest me because God is with me wherever I go.” said the vicar. 

“Right then” (said the cop) “I’m nicking you for carrying a passenger on a single seater vehicle!”

Now all I have to do is remember what to do when I am riding it. Hopefully it’s not as easy as falling off a bike.