Questions about the rules of cricket have been more common in England over the last few weeks. Here’s one explanation of the game (written when only men played it): You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he is out. When they are all out, the side that's been out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out, he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who are all out all the time, and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
Even attempts which try to describe the rules of a game rather more seriously than this one, can end up simply creating confusion and failing completely to capture its ethos. People have discovered a new interest in cricket recently, not because they’ve begun to learn how cricket works, but because the Ashes series has been exciting. They have warmed to personalities on both sides and have been absorbed in watching the way the sides have taken it in turns to appear to have the upper hand.
A basic element in Christianity is that it is in the flesh and blood of Jesus that we discover how to live. There are rules which God has given to help us to know how to get the most from life but it is becoming absorbed in the personality of Jesus and identifying with him in his struggles and victory that inspires most Christians in their faith. Perhaps today, whether we have accepted that particular way of life or not, we might be grateful for the people we know whose lives excite and inspire us. We can’t rule rules out but what draws us in is other people and their enthusiasms and commitment.
A 45-foot replica Viking ship made of 15 million wooden ice cream sticks and 2.2 tons of glue has been launched in Amsterdam. The inside of the boat is reinforced with fiberglass and it’s propelled by a modern mast and sail, or oars, or by a backup motor. A team of the volunteers who’d helped build the ship successfully rowed it around the IJ River behind the city's central station, watched by its creator, Rob McDonald. "I have a dream to show children they can do anything," he said. "If they can dream it, they can do it."
"Captain Rob," as he is known, had fulfilled his dream by creatively using what most of us would throw away. He made good use of items which seemed to have no further obvious function. One of the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah, suggested that God did this too. After their failures had led the people of Israel to be scattered away from Jerusalem, he used a “remnant
” to be the foundation of a new people and this group of leftovers
contained many, blind and lame people, pregnant and breastfeeding women, who would not generally have been perceived as being much use.
Perhaps today we might be on the lookout for value in what on the surface seems worthless and develop the skill of making good use of every opportunity, however insignificant it may seem. Such attention to experiences or people which are apparently good-for-nothing can be the stuff out of which dreams become reality.
Recently I met someone again after a thirty-year gap. He remembered something helpful I had said all those years ago.
On Sunday, the Pope created four new saints, making 473 while he’s been pontiff, 473 people whose words or actions have influenced people since.
The saints each of us honour are not so much the publicly proclaimed ones but those who, often by a chance remark or simple action, have encouraged us in our lives.
In this sense, we are all saints. If not today, then sometime, what each of us says or does will be important to someone else, probably without us knowing it.
Prime time ITV viewing on Saturday nights at the moment is “Stars in their eyes”. Hopeful performers are dressed and made-up as famous artists and try and imitate their voices and style. They sing a song associated with the one they have chosen to copy and compete to reach the programme’s final. They hope to become famous by imitating someone else.
Sometimes the audience’s votes seem to indicate which of the chosen singers they preferred rather than the best performer on the night. But often what seems to count most is an almost indefinable affinity between the performer and the singer they are imitating, an inner connection which has nothing to do with outward looks, where the similarity is almost always entirely the work of the make-up artists. What rarely, if ever, happens, is that the performer meets their idol in person – the imitation has to happen at a distance.
Most of us have people whom we consciously or unconsciously try to imitate. It’s usually worth acknowledging to ourselves who they are; and what the inner connections are that make them attractive to us. For anyone who finds the person of Jesus attractive in this way, it’s worth asking the question why; but whatever the answer, the belief that he is alive makes possible an imitation based not only on stories from the gospels but on present experience.