Monthly Archives: May 2013

Achievement has no colour

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“Achievement has no colour.”

So said Abraham Lincoln about 150 years ago. Great words if only the world would heed them. But it doesn’t, this blog is inspired by a 13 year old Collingwood fan and her racial taunts to Adam Goodes.

Those of you who know me will know that I don’t take a huge interest in A.F.L. Football. I watch it and I now know (after 13 years I might add) roughly what’s going on. I have played and watched enough sport though to know that to make it to the top requires dedication and skill. Week in, week out through training and preparation and through sacrifice and hard work players earn their places at the top. If you can make it into an A.F.L. team you’re obviously no dud (even the Melbourne Demons players have great skills, and that’s saying something seeing how they have played this year).

And as Abe said, those achievements have no colour. The blood, sweat and tears of every player are the same no matter what colour their skin is. The dedication and sacrifices involved in reaching the elite level in any sport are massive and well done to those who make it.

We all have our favourite teams, even our favourite players but our desire to see our ‘boys’ (or ‘girls’) play well shouldn’t blind us to the fact that the opposition have also worked hard to get where they are.

I’m no Sydney Swans fan and I don’t know enough to have any real feelings about Adam Goodes as a player. He’s won a premiership so he’s obviously no slouch but I can’t tell you if he’s a super star or Mr. Mediocre but I must say I’m impressed with the dignity, courage and humility he’s displayed over the last few days, in the wake of the incident and in how he’s handled the apology. I just think back to Eric Cantona in 1995 and how he reacted to see how bad it could have been. (Goggle it, it’s a very famous incident.)

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No one should have to endure racial abuse at work (or anywhere else for that matter), if you are a cleaner, a teacher or a footballer it’s just not acceptable, and Adam Goodes was just doing his job. That his job has him working in front of 80,000 people makes no difference – racism has no place in sport and no place in society. Well done Adam Goodes, not for playing well but for doing well in handling a situation you should never have been put into.

Back in the 1990’s I was involved with the U.K.’s “Let’s kick racism out of football” campaign. A movement that is still working hard for racial equality on the pitch and in the stands. It’s sad that its still needed but it does great work in raising awareness and changing peoples’ attitudes. Another, less well known campaign, but one that is gaining momentum, especially in the United States, is one that is summed up by this tweet from my friends the monks at the Unvirtuous Abbey – “For those who think Jesus was an English-speaking white man with blue eyes, Lord, in your brown-skinned, Aramaic-speaking, brown-eyed mercy forgive.”

It’s not just sport where racism is rife. Unfortunately it is also alive and kicking in some churches and as mentioned in a previous blog on one of Steve Taylor’s songs, “Racism in the name of Christianity cannot be tolerated.” For just as achievement has no colour neither does the love of God.

As disciples of Jesus we should be completely colour blind – to the point where all we see is a child of God, another human being. Enough said – let’s act…

Racism – it stops with me!

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7 billion

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Seven billion on earth. Most live in poverty. Make a difference.

I’ve just read Dan Brown’s new book ‘Inferno’. Enjoyable – if you like that sort of thing. This blog is not a book review and I will not reveal the plot but it does deal with the very theme of this week’s sign.

The population of the world.

Seven billion is a huge number – inconceivable to most people. The MCG holds close to 100,000 people for the Grand Final or the Boxing Day Test and that’s a big crowd – now imagine 100 MCG’s, 1000 MCG’s. It’s not a number we can easily imagine – well try 70,000 MCG’s. That’s roughly the population of our planet.

Now take 56,000 of those stadia (5.6 billion people) and tell them that they have to live on less than $10 a day.

15,680 of those MCG’s worth of people (over 1.5 billion humans) live in absolute poverty, that is below US$1.25 a day.

The numbers are mind boggling – we cannot possibly fathom them. To make it easier let us imagine the world’s population as 10 people.

Of those 10 people – 8 of them would live in poverty.
Of those 10 people – 5 of them would live on under $2.50
Of those 10 people – 2 (and a bit) of them would live on under $1.25 a day.
Of those 10 people – 5 live in cities and 3 of those 5 live in slums.
Of those 10 people – 2.5 of them live without electricity.
Of those 10 people – 3 of them have enough food to eat each day, 7 of them don’t.
Of those 10 people – 1 of them (actually less than 1 of them) has more than $300 in a bank account.

The figures are terrifying. Look at these facts –

In 2008 the population of Europe spent US$11 billion on ice cream. Experts estimate to supply safe water to all the people of the world would cost US$9 billion. Less than what one continent spends on ice cream!

It would be around US$19 billion to give everyone a basic education and access to basic health care and nutrition. Only slightly more than what Europe and North America spend on pet food (US$17 billion).

In 1998 (last reliable figures) the world spent approximately US$800 billion on military acquisitions. One tenth of that would eradicate the need for foreign aid spending and give EVERYONE on the planet access to basic healthcare, water, food AND education with billions of dollars to spare.

Now I know that I cannot change the world – neither can you (unless you happen to be Barak Obama or someone like that, in which case ring me, we NEED to talk) but you can change your world – the little sphere you live in.

If we all changed a little then those changes would reverberate across our planet. Imagine the change if one of those 10 people (or 10% of the world’s population) decided to make a difference. Not only would they change but the lives of millions of others would too.

What can we do? What difference can you or I make?

Take a look at the Global Poverty Project’s website for some simple ideas. Here’s link to their blog on what everyday people can do…

http://www.globalpovertyproject.com/blog/view/281

Make a difference!

You cannot change the world but you can change you and if enough ‘yous’ change then so does the world.

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For the Will & Grace to know all people are equal

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For those who read this blog regularly I’m quite sure I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but there are A LOT of people who haven’t grasped this simple principle yet –

GOD LOVES EVERYONE

I can’t say it often enough, or loud enough, or strongly enough – God loves you.

Not for what you will be, or what you can be but he loves you for what you are. Listen to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this way’. She understands the idea.

Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient

Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby, you were born this way

No matter gay, straight or bi
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to survive

No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born to be brave

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

What’s so hard to grasp? Why do I have to repeat it again and again and again?

God loves you as you are, each one of you. And, here’s the problem for us, he calls us to do the same.

In this, and I shudder to say it but, there is so much we can learn from cheesy American sit coms. Take Will & Grace or Friends or the Big Bang Theory, some funny shows with some funny lines but like them or not they go out of their way to show the equality of their characters, no matter what their differences.

In Friends we saw how strong women characters can compete in a male dominated world. Monica, Rachel and Phoebe proved it to us every week.

Big Bang makes intelligent geeks cool but also shows that being intelligent or geeky doesn’t make you better than anyone else. How often do we see Sheldon knock on Penny’s door for help?knock, knock, knock Penny,
knock, knock, knock Penny,
knock, knock, knock Penny.

Will & Grace remind us, every week, that there are gay people living in our world, yes even in Melbourne, maybe even coming to the Melbourne Welsh Church, and that shouldn’t be an issue.

Yes we laugh with them (sometimes), or at least at them, but we also learn from them. The things that make us different, our skin colour, our gender, our wealth, our geek factor, our sexual orientations are all seen in these shows and are shown not as failures of character or bad things but as positive differences.

We, who try to follow Jesus, are called to a life of love and service. Not a life of weakness but one of strength. It takes a lot of will & grace to love people – especially people who you don’t like, or don’t get on with. (Fortunately we’re not called to like everybody, only to love them, but that’s hard enough.) We are not blind to who or what people are – we are commanded to love them despite their differences, perhaps because of them. God does….

I’m sure that when he looks at me and he sees past the short, handsome, funny, brilliant, deluded Welshman – and sees his child with huge possibilities, amazing potential – someone he loves. And that is what God sees in everyone. Why can’t we?

So our prayer for this Pentecost week is that we are given the Will (power) and Grace (of God) to remember that God does not look at the differences, he looks at the heart. So let us love as he loves, unconditionally; not counting the cost but seeing all people as just that – people – with hopes, and dreams, with hurts and worries. People with a God that loves them whether they know it or not.

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We strive for excellense

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We strive for excellense.

We never quite make it – but we strive. (And to all those who have let us know our sign is misspelled – thank you. It was quite deliberate.)

People outside the church have this strange view that all of us church goers think we’re perfect and that we’re better than everyone else. It is the case that there are vocal elements in (what we we broadly call) the church who do this. They are the definite minority. For those who truly follow Jesus the opposite is usually more of the problem. We actually know how imperfect we are and that we are in no way better than others, far too often church people undersell their gifts and don’t live up to their massive, God given potential.

There are no perfect churches either, just as there are no perfect people. We see the church as a hospital for sinners not an escape zone for saints. We, at the Melbourne Welsh Church, are well aware of of lot of our faults (I’m sure there are some we haven’t noticed) but we are also conscious of what we can do. We are continually striving for excellense – always aiming higher – in churchy language – all wanting to be more Christ-like. Our doors are open to ANYONE – no matter who you are. We make a conscious and definite effort to be a radically inclusive church. If you make that first step and walk in, we will endeavour to make you feel welcome. We know that how we do things doesn’t suit everyone (we have an organ not a band) but, even if you choose not to come back, it will not be because you were not made welcome and we try to make sure that welcome is universal no matter what your race / back ground / gender / sexual orientation / insert other discriminational phrase here. Yes, we are proud to say we are Christians but we are not bigots!

If you choose to stay we promise to try and ensure that you are part of a loving and welcoming community that worships God and works like Jesus (well tries to). We will encourage you to be part of that welcome you received and aim to help you fulfil your potential in the church and outside. We see Christianity as a way of life not an hour long activity on a Sunday.

We are not perfect – far from it – even our sign writer gets it wrong – but we will strive to make ourselves better, more Christ-like and to us that means being welcoming, loving, caring, serving, working. We see the radical Jesus as our role model. The one who welcomed the outcasts of his time, the ones the world and religious folk said were worthless and we’re trying to be like him.

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Scotland’s national animal

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Goggle “Scotland’s national animal.” Go on. Do it.

Thanks to @rev_david for tweeting this.

Now I was going to do a long blog on the mystical person of God and how we see him and understand him. I have even been given a great quote from the play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead to illustrate this.

But why? Why do we have to be serious all the time? – let’s relax for a while, goggle Scotland’s national animal and have a little laugh.

After all God has a sense of humour (he ordained me, what more proof do you need?) so why shouldn’t we enjoy a little giggle now and again?

So off you go, google Scotland’s national animal and smile for a while. It’ll bring you a little closer to God, for he smiles on you all the time, whether you know or not.

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