|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the most memorable voices of my English schooldays was that of the great cricket commentator John Arlott. He reported on many things, and was also a poet, wine-connoisseur, hymn-writer, part time politician, anti-apartheid spokesperson and renowned host of dinner parties. His distinctive radio tones and brilliant turns of phrase illuminated English summers and some other special occasions, notably the great Centenary Test Match in Melbourne in 1977. Thousands of miles away I remember being curled up through the night listening under the covers to John’s words. His descriptions were typically unforgettable: such as that of the scene of Dennis Lillee’s destruction of the English first innings, where, he said, even the ‘seagulls were standing in line like vultures’, and also Derek Randall’s heroic second innings fightback – an innings as inimitable as John’s own expressions. Gordon Greenidge, the great West Indian batsman, even named him ‘the Shakespeare of commentators.’ Above all, however, I will always cherish John Arlott’s vigorous standing up for our common humanity, not least over apartheid. He had learned to move on from his English colonial upbringing from Indian cricketers, not least the wonderful Vijay Merchant. Famously then, he was involved at the forefront of cricket’s anti-apartheid struggles. Indeed, as early as 1948, visiting South Africa, he refused to fill in the section marked ‘race’ on the departure form, except to put the word ‘human’. ‘What do you mean?’, said an angry immigration officer aggressively. ‘I am a member of the human race’ came back the reply. Eventually he was just told to ‘get out’. How I wonder would John Arlott fare today with resurgent racism, nationalism, and the exclusivism of so many immigration policies? What price human unity today? What, in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, does faith have to contribute?...
On this Ocean Sunday in the Season of Creation, let me speak about three things: about how the Gospel calls us to ocean-like risks; about how Pacific Islanders are leading us to a deeper understanding of God as ocean; and, on this Fathers Day, about how one son remembers his father best when he is close to the ocean. First however, let me rework an old story.
The story goes that Prophet Mohammed, the Buddha, and Jesus all return together and go sailing on the ocean in a boat. A storm blows up and breaks the sail, sweeping the oars and other implements away. Marooned some distance from land, what are they to do? Well, Prophet Mohammed ponders for a moment and then takes action. Relying on his physical prowess and trust in God, he leaps into the still tumultuous waves and, at the cost of much exertion and constant vocal prayer, swims his way back to shore. The Buddha is next. Remaining typically calm in the face of all the changing circumstances, he sits attentively for some time and then, picking up a piece of driftwood, slides on to it. Catching the next great wave, with profound skill and attention, he also eventually surfs his way back to shore. So, what of Jesus? Well, Jesus seems to spend far less time and effort. He simply steps out of the boat and walks easily and comfortably back to shore. Immediately, social media goes mad, making sense of these startling events. So what is the main meme, or message, that is spread? It is obvious, really: Jesus, proclaims social media to the world, Jesus can neither swim nor surf – so what kind of a saviour is that?!...
by Jonathan Inkpin
Our Gospel reading for Sunday 1 June concludes with the words of Jesus: ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one’ (John 17.11b). How appropriate this is, as we come to World Environment Day this week, in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity! For in words which resonate wonderfully with Jesus’ prayer, our UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, also calls out, saying: "Planet Earth is our shared island, let us join forces to protect it."
The UN Secretary-General’s call for global unity is not surprising. It is only recently that we heard of more catastrophic flooding in the Solomon Islands. Yet this is but the latest of a series of environmental disasters and challenges which are faced by the small island nations of our world. This year’s World Environment Day theme of Raise your voice – not the sea level is therefore a very fruitful one for enabling us to ponder the nature of and challenge of Christian unity. For it can lead us into a deeper awareness of our interconnectedness with all of God’s Creation, and, in particular, with the hurts and hopes of our brothers and sisters in the small island nations of our world...