Murrayfield, Me, Gregory of Nyssa, and Being the People of God

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I have had to apologise in advance to those who don’t know me before the 6 Nations rugby starts next month. You see I am a pretty fanatical rugby fan. I don’t just go to “watch Scotland” I go to “support them.” When I go to Murrayfield being blessed with a loud voice, I feel it is my personal mission to make sure that the boys on the field know we are behind them. You probably wouldn’t want to sit beside me as I am not one of those fans that can sit and clap. No I need to be on my feet shouting when the action is at a crucial stage to the general embarrassment of those members of my family that are with me.

Reflecting on my rugby supporting made me think about another church leader who seems to have been a bit of sports fan, his name was Gregory of Nyssa. Gregory is one the “Early Church Fathers” who were the church leaders in the early church who really shaped the way we understand theology and church, he lived in the 4th century AD. As I said as well as being one the most important theologians in the early church, Gregory was a bit of a sports fan, he wrote this about chariot racing, the big spectator sport of his day.”At horse races, the spectators, intent on victory, shout to their favorites in the contest. From the balcony, they incite the rider to keener effort, urging the horses on while leaning forward and flailing the air with their outstretched hand instead of a whip. I seem to be doing the same thing myself, most valued friend and brother. While you are competing admirably in the divine race, straining constantly for the prize of the heavenly calling, I exhort, urge and encourage you vigorously.”

Gregory talks about how the fans encourage the chariot riders, inciting the riders to keener effort from the stands. He then describes how he feels that is exactly what he is doing for his friend to whom he is writing when it comes to Christian living. He is supporting, encouraging and inspiring this believer to be all he can be for Christ. Gregory really got me thinking. It seems to me (probably only to me I must admit) that Rugby is a lot like living as a Christian. They both have a purpose, are exciting at time and have an opposition that wants to knock you down and stop you making it to your objective. Get the metaphor? But when it comes to rugby us fans are in the stands, screaming our encouragement, calling on the players to do better, applauding their efforts, inspiring them to achieve and willing them to get back on their feet and get back in the game.

You know what the more I think about that the more I feel that’s the kind of church community I want to be part of. I want to be of a church which is fanatical about encouraging people and inspiring people. Most churches I have been part of have been filled with people who are polite observers of other people’s lives, not at all like Gregory of Nyssa, who likens himself to a fanatical fan willing his sports star on. Yet the New Testament seems to support Gregory’s attitude. Just listen to these words and I could quote so many more passages with the same flavour. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

Here is what is in my mind after thinking about this, I am going to try to be as deliberate and determined in encouraging and inspiring my fellow believers in their Christian life as I am encouraging Scotland at Murrayfield. I want to join Gregory and incite people to keener effort in their Christ following. What about you? What would happen if we all became more passionate about encouraging each other to be all we can be as Christ followers. I know I won’t ever run out at Murrayfield to hear the roar of encouragement of the Scotland fans. But you know I am beginning to sense something like in our community here in Edinburgh, I hope you are too.

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