Friday, June 26, 2009

state of origin

"Ease up, Tiger" he said with his forearm planted firmly against the assailant's throat while he calmly looked into the eyes of the attacker.

I was in a small North Richmond lounge-room with 12 other men (mostly younger than me) on "Origin night".

I've always enjoyed a good game of State of Origin football between the Blues and the Maroons, but up until now I've never had the privilege of watching it with the religious. In the afternoon leading up to the 80 minutes of testostoronic television gazing, I was gently coerced into revealing where my loyalties lay... and, seeing that I'd lived in Queensland for two and a half years, the answer was inevitable.

The admission of my Maroon tendencies proved to be a lonely one with two other "Queens-lan-ders" in a room filled with Blues supporters. They were all polite and civil as we had our fill of Dominos Pizza, but even then I sensed a deeper tension beneath the surface ... a tension that spoke of loyalty, courage, passion ... and, well, blood-curdling rivalry.

The first half of Maroon domination brought on by the Blues' inability to hang onto the ball gave our minority group plenty to smile about. But smiling wasn't enough for my compatriot sitting a little to my left ... he seemed to think that gloating, taunting and parading were more appropriate responses. He turned to me at one stage and said, "You're not saying much Trav!" To which I replied, "I'm not sure I need to." ... thinking that his antics were possibly antagonizing the New South Welshman enough already.

This thought proved to be true when the Blues scored their first try, and my friend somehow managed to find his way off of his seat, and pole-driven into the carpet ... then with another, a football was sent flying across the room connecting squarely in the side of my Queensland-loving friend's face. ... The room became silent for a moment as an awkward apology was made, and ignored with the words, "Just you wait" ... and the time-bomb had been set.

The second half saw the Blues fight back and it looked as though the vocal Queensland supporter might end up red-faced in more ways than one ... but he sat in silence, awaiting his moment for revenge. Then, just minutes before full time, Queensland celebrated a try, but confirmation was needed from the video ref ... and when it finally came, revenge was swiftly pursued. Before long, shirts were ripped, bodies piled up on one another and best mates would have been exchanging punches if not for the size of the room ... and the youth pastor.

Ryan wrestled the Queenslander off of the ball-thrower and, with his entire weight on top of him and his arm pressed up against his throat he looked into his eyes, and said, "Ease up, tiger."

The life-threatening wrestle was over ... the warriors dusted themselves off ... smiles came out, backs were slapped ... words of friendship were exchanged ... and the game was complete.

I've not witnessed such a violent expression of mateship before ... and I'm still scratching my head over it - a senseless mistreatment of friends, or a primal expression of respect and honour? ... I'm not sure, but if it's the latter, it's strangely compelling ... dangerous ... but compelling.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

message & medium ...

"My concern for you in your new role Trav, is that you might become so focused on the dynamic of the means you use to bring the message that you forget about the dynamic of the message itself."
That was the latest insight given me by my mentor ... and it's bugged me a bit ... mainly because I know he's right.
I can't back away from integrating the method of "storying" into how I present the Bible to young people ... and I can't back away from injecting creativity into the way I teach God's word ... not because I'm willing to sacrifice truth on the altar of pragmatism, or because I'm just trying to be relevant ... but because I see an ancient path in the means of storying the Scriptures, and I genuninely believe that creativity in communication is a very real expression of worship to God ... so I cannot back away.
But I do take the warning ... I take the warning of searching so hard for the perfect song or picture or video loop to complement the story, and in that search I lose sight of the simple power of the gospel ... in my own life, and in the lives of those who hear from me.
I don't want to become another ministry statistic clambering for the next "new way" at the expense of the ancient "new way" ... I don't want to become subject to the consumerism that the generation I hope to reach are subject to ... simply by trying to be clever.
I've seen the power of the gospel work without "environmental input" ... I've seen that power with those things as well ... and I've even seen the power of the gospel speak into people's lives in spite of the distraction of our cleverness ... the issue then doesn't seem to be whether or not we be creative in our teaching - but how we view creativity.
If we see creativity as "what we need to do to make God's Word relevant", then we pragmatically elevate the medium over the message ... but if we see creativity as a legitimate and authentic expression of worship, then that creativity becomes part of the fabric of the message we proclaim - not replacing, but revealing the truth of the gospel.
So in one sense, the medium is not the message when it comes to teaching the Bible, in another sense the medium we use may well be an expression of the message we bring - and because the message has been through us, and we are the medium of that message (2 Corinthians 3:3) ... in this way, the medium is the message.
So I've taken the warning (and will seek to continue to) ... but this warning has also helped me to realise that the dynamic of the means of communication may well be birthed out of the dynamic of the message itself ... how can I tell if it's not? ... that all depends if my preparation is out of striving in the flesh or resting in the Spirit ... and if, at the end of the day, the message is not clear ... I might as well pack up and go home.