view from my pew 6

Dear Internet

I read Nick’s article on the tennis courts at Wimbledon (for some reason he calls it a ‘bloggage’ – you can read it here). It made me think about my own sporting achievements which, if I am honest, were quite a few years ago.

When I was at Primary School I was entered in the flat race at Sports Day, when I was aged 5. My mother had said she would be there watching me but I had not been able to see her in the crowd of parents. I lined up with the other children and the teacher started the race. I started running as fast as my chubby little legs would carry me and, wonder of wonders, I was leading. I so wanted Mother to see me winning so as I ran I started looking in the crowd for her. Because I was looking around as I was running I was not watching where I was going and I fell over, tripping up the rest of the children too. Gradually we all got to our feet and the more enterprising of us ran to the finish. I sat there wondering what had happened until my teacher came and collected me. (Mother had been there and saw the whole thing).

On another occasion our Primary School engaged in a series of inter-school sports days with two other schools. I was not selected for anything in the first one and complained to my teacher. (I think they were worried I might look around for Mother again). My teacher tried to find something that I could participate in where I would not cause too much harm and noted that the tug of war team had not won anything. He put me in the tug of war team and I was thrilled to be able to wear one of our school’s gold-coloured sports t-shirts.

Tug O' War
(Not a picture of the actual event)

The next of the three sports days was at a school whose playing fields were on a significant slope and the tug of war was set up so that one team was pulling downhill and one was pulling uphill. In order to make it fair they tossed a coin each time to see which team would start off pulling downhill and we would swap places after each pull. I worked out that as it was ‘best of three’ it was definitely an advantage to start off pulling downhill. For some reason I was asked to call the coin toss each time and each time I called it correctly and chose to pull first downhill. Not surprisingly we won against both of the other schools (2-1 each time) but I didn’t care. I had won something as part of a school team! (As a post-script, the third sports day was at our school which had a flat playing field and our previously victorious tug of war team lost each pull).

As I reflected on these two occasions I thought that the first reminded me that God is always watching me, even when I can’t sense him there, so my job is not to look for him but to run life’s race to the best of my ability. I thought that the second reminded me that regardless of my ability God chooses to use me in his team and that I should be proud of that. There will be circumstances I cannot control, but all he asks is that I do my best.

Because his opening Devotions had been a reflection on England’s rather poor sporting performance in the European Football Championships I told Revd Phillip Inneck-Tucker (our Minister) about my sporting stories after the Church Meeting last night. He laughed and then he asked me to tell the stories in the first part of the service on Sunday, along with my reflections.

“No thank you,” I said, “I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of everyone.”

Revd Phil gave me one of his funny looks and asked me to think about my reflections again. I don’t know what he’s getting at.

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

Be blessed, be a blessing (as Nick insists I end these letters)

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.”