In conversation I was interested in understanding the Nepalese culture. Where would I begin?
Where else than to ask him about the sport of the country... He looked puzzled.
I pursued the questioning trying to find out what events, throughout the year, would be ones they looked forward to. His answer surprised me, ‘It was the festivals’. I felt a little embarrassed, as I realized how obsessed we become in Australia with the annual sporting cycle. The Boxing Day test, the Australian Open for Tennis, the AFL competition, Melbourne Cup, etc.
This culture of competition, and betting, and adulation is not necessarily the healthiest model for a society. In fact, I was once asked to write a chapter on sport for a book entitled Sacred Australia. I believed it was too cynical to exclude sport as a field of life that didn’t teach us something about life.
Rudyard Kipling's , poem of “If” is one of my favourites and points us in the right direction…
‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…’.
Today I suggest we cast our mind to a sporting event that has become part of our country’s culture, even if less conspicuous than many other sports: It’s the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. I rarely follow it, but seem to annually view it at some point throughout Boxing day. The aerial shots of Sydney harbour full of yachts slowly moving down the harbour is quite a sight and what I want to suggest is a scene of something profound…
A yacht is a yacht is a yacht. They all have a body or hull, a variety of sail types and a crew. But even these are all different. Even similar boats cannot be the same for they must have different crews and each crew is differently equipt by physique, and mind.
So over the following days they will each create a story unique to themselves and ultimately leading to the finish line. The following days of the competition are spent around Constitution Dock telling one another those stories.
DRIVEN BY THE WIND, THE METAPHOR
One thing is absolutely clear, the thing they share in common is being driven by the wind. They might have experienced the wind differently and they most likely responded in different and various ways. But I reiterate that one thing is absolutely clear, they were driven by the wind.
I personally find this a magic metaphor of our Christian life. In John chapter three, we read, ‘The wind blows where it will, we hear the sound of it but know not from where it comes or where it goes.’
Today we read of Jesus own baptism and how it was the occasion of an extraordinary encounter with the Spirit. Fundamental to baptism is the person’s expression of will to devote ones life to living in union with God. This union is consummated in the harmony of spirit with Spirit. Following the apparition of a dove alighting upon Jesus, and the sound of a voice declaring him to be Gods beloved Son in whom he is well pleased, we are told he is lead by the Spirit into the wilderness.
THE NEW CONSCIOUSNESS
…The story of the yachts, lead by the wind, and the story of humans lead by the spirit…
This is the new consciousness that is the prime characteristic of Christianness - Living in this same spiritual union Jesus personified for us. No yacht experienced the journey exactly the same. Their uniqueness is found in the way they happen to remain sensitive to the constant playful shift of wind.
With each new step or, better said, wave, they must sensitively respond to partner that dancing force of life the wind.
The human awakening depicted in baptism requires a similar sensitivity to the ever playful divine force driving ones life forward, in the dance of the spirit.
Jesus story highlighted three profound events that typified what might constitute the moves in this dance of life. The rejection of living by bread alone, the spectacular if not reckless attention seeking jump from the temple parapet, the egotistical dreaming on top of the mountain about some political utopian Kingdom won by skullduggery.
Do we need more examples from Jesus? Certainly not, for we must determine similar examples from our own life. We might say that at the ultimate constitutional dock of the spirit’s journey, the ultimate Heavenly banquet, we will tell our own unique story.
Every step of the new dance of life must replicate the harmony and rhythm of the being of God in its becoming. We are to be the active companions in the unfolding story of creation. Companionship of the mutual love and faithfulness with God.
ALL DRIVEN BY THE SPIRIT
Some 7 billion people across humanity are like those yachts sailing the Sydney harbour. All different. But all driven by the spirit.
Jesus illustrates the way. Our fulfillment is in emulating him.