Signs of spring

Everywhere in Wellington there are signs of spring. Flowers are coming into bloom and the Botanical Gardens have come alive with their annual display of tulips.

On Sunday after church Ingrid and i went for a stroll (along with a few hundred other people) to admire the colours.

It was marvellous -such a dazzling array of hues and all the more stunning in the sunlight.
As i admired the signs of spring in nature it got me thinking about the signs of spring (so to speak) in my own life…getting plugged back into the family of Capital Vineyard church, being able to give my skills and time to the church by improving their website, the Vineyard National Conference starting tomorrow, with over 300 people coming, a potential job opportunity which is very exciting, new friendships and just a sense that God is quietly stirring stuff just below the surface…

Krazy konversation in Karori

Location: Karori swimming pool

Scene: Martin has just finished his swim and is getting changed in the locker room. He finds himself absent mindedly whistling the theme tune to Oklahoma. An old man engages him in conversation…

OM: Do you have a child at Karori middle school?
M: No.
OM: Are you sure?
M: Yes I’m quite sure. Why do you ask?
OM: It’s just that you are whistling the theme tune to Oklahoma. It’s the play that the school is doing at the moment and my granddaughter is in it. That’s why I thought you had a child there.
M: No I don’t. I’m not a local.
OM: Yes, I could tell that by your accent. Have you been in New Zealand long?
M: Only about a month or so but I have been here a few times before though.
OM: Ahh, I see. I’m guessing you have had a few adventures on your prior trips?
M: Yes I did!
OM: (Laughing) So, in theory you could have a child here in New Zealand that you don’t know about?
M: (Firm but polite) No…trust me on this. I don’t have a child that I fathered with a Kiwi girl and whom I am unaware of.
OM: Oh well, if you are sure then?
M: Yes. Nice chatting to you. Must dash…

(Martin exits stage left)

Sporting idols?

Along with many other people, I love rugby. It’s been said that for many people in New Zealand, rugby is the closest thing to religion.

As I was walking to the Westpac Stadium last Saturday night for the Bledisloe Cup match, along with thousands of other black clad supporters, it was easy to see why. All of us, in a sense, were walking to a cathedral like arena, where we all shared a spiritual like experience in something we believe in.

Figures suggest that sport is gradually replacing religion as the main form of personal identity, firstly among men, but, also increasingly among women. It’s true that many of us relate to others when talking about sport. Sport provides a key mechanism through which we develop a sense of bonding and belonging. It used to be said that a family that prayed together, stayed together. You could argue now that that family that stays together is the one that participates in, watches and talks about sport.

It’s well known that the very ritual of coming together to watch and play sport helps create a sense of community, creates a collective excitement and a sense of consciousness. Sport helps people transcend the material conditions of their current existence; so, in a certain sense, sport is spiritual.

For many people, being completely consumed by the unfolding of a game is as close to a religious experience as they will ever have and as Christians, this should make us feel sad.

Let’s be honest, sport has many good points. It helps build bridges; it allows us to relate and reach out to strangers who may be divided by ethnic, racial, political or religious differences. In a globalised world, sport has become a key language of cosmopolitanism. Through creating a sense of identity and belonging, sport gives purpose and meaning to many people’s lives.

In a world where God and salvation have sadly begun to take a back seat, sport has moved to the front of social life. It has become one of the main mechanisms through which people create a sense of their shared understanding. Sport is a metaphor for life. It may not answer the big questions of death, illness and tragedy, but it has become a major distraction, a major form of comfort and consolation. It has become the thing we turn to give us a sense of joy.

For those reasons, it’s easy to see that sport can become idolatrous for many people including Christians.

An idol is defined as an image used as an object of worship, or something that causes excessive devotion. It’s easy to see how too much time spent focusing on sport could be deemed at best unhealthy and at worst, idolatrous.

In 1 Corinthians 10 the Bible clearly tells us to “flee from idolatry”. Not “stay away from”, not “make sure you don’t go near it too often”, but “flee from” it. That is pretty clear isn’t it?

Anything that takes our eyes and our passion away from God or takes up more of our time than anything else, should be considered an idol.

Maybe sport isn’t the idol for you, maybe its shopping, trashy celebrity magazines, the latest electronic gadgets, or always having a nice car. Whatever it is, it is worth considering how much of your life is spent investing in that thing.

So next time you are the game or watching back to back matches on TV, and praying for your team to win, remind yourself that its just a bunch of guys playing a game.

While it’s ok to get excited over it, we should always ensure that our strongest fervour, our greatest joy and our deepest passion, is reserved for the amazing God who made us.

Amped about Armistice

Mutemath have finally released their latest album “Armistice” to the rest of the world outside the USA.

So, while i wait for the CDto wing its way over to NZ, im enjoying listening to the tracks on the download and words fail me…just brilliant stuff…and hauntingly beautiful.

Their self titled album was amazing, but Armistice completely shatters all that that they have done before. Never before have I heard a collection of songs so beautifuly layered and constructed. It alternates between sending constant chills up my back to making tears well up in my eyes.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how good is it? You don’t put Mute Math on a scale; they are the scale.

It is quite possibly the finest album of modern music i have ever heard…

Awesome All Blacks

On Saturday night i had the pleasure of attending the Bledisloe Cup and final Tri Nations match of the season between the All Blacks and Australia..and what a match it was!

My good friend Andrea was up from Chriustchurch for the match and we took our seats just as the national anthems started. After a stirring haka it was game on and from midway through the first half it was pretty clear there was only going to be one winner!

New Zealand romped home by 33-6 as they managed to avoid becoming the first ever All Black side to lose three home matches in a year.

It was pretty much a dead rubber as South Africa had already won the Tri Nations title, but pride was at stake as neither Australia nor New Zealand gave up.

The loss for the Wallabies means that they ended the tournament at the bottom of the table, with just one win from six matches.

The All Blacks finished second, eight points behind South Africa with three wins from six after this emphatic win over their neighbours.

Following kicks exchanged by Matt Giteau (who had a rare off game) Dan Carter, and Berrick Barnes, Corey Jane scored the first try of the match after getting above James O’Connor to claim a high kick from Mils Muliaina before speeding into the corner for a try…the corner right we were sitting!!!

The All Blacks went into the break with a 16-6 lead, before a penalty from Carter and two late tries killed off the visitors.

Ma’a Nonu then showed his strength as he barged through four tackles to score. Joe Rokocoko was also impressive, as he looked for work and was rewarded on the stroke of full time with a try in the corner.

Well i have to say that as well as the AB’s played, the Aussies had a very poor game. Giteau had a rare off day, poor little James O’connor looks like he should still be playing school rugby and Rocky Elsom was great but couldn’t win the match all by himself…. It was a great atmosphere though and the try that Cory Jane scored was right in the corner right front of me which was brilliant -the crowd went nuts as he is a Wellington boy. Overall, my impression was that the Wallaby backs were a lot better than their forwards who turned over far too much ball.

My excitement at the game was only added to that fact that i was next to a group of drunk but very friendly Maori blokes from whom i got a free beer! Not sure that would happen in the UK!

You can enjoy the highlights of what i saw below:


Since 1995, Pixar Studios has produced the most astonishing run of commercially successful and critically animated feature films since..well…since Walt Disney hung up his crayons.

1995’s Toy Story led to an almost as good sequel, and to such films as A Bug’s Life, Cars, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E.

To that list you can now add Up!, which i went to see on a rainy Monday afternoon. I was stunned by the film (and i don’t say that lightly given my love of animated films).

It was winsome, funny and at times deeply moving and this gorgeously rendered, high-flying adventure is a distillation of all the signature Pixar touches that came before it.

Whisper it quietly, but it could be Pixar’s finest work to date…