The Town of Northampton and the County of Northamptonshire is steeped in the traditions of Rugby Union. It cannot have escaped your notice that the Rugby World Cup is almost upon us, less than one hundred days, by the time you read this it will be under fifty.
The small but beautifully formed William Webb Ellis trophy is about to be played for once again, this time in the Northern Hemisphere in our own back yard. It is great and we will welcome teams and their supporters from all over the world.
I first learnt about the William Webb Ellis Cup in a quiz. Name the Rugby World Cup? Sorry, I hadn’t a clue. I could honestly say it was a point of learning so it served a good purpose. I would say that is often how things start and develop. Rugby at it’s most basic level is about picking the ball up and running down the other end of the pitch and putting it down. Simple isn’t it? By its simplicity it helps other people and a wider sphere of people engage with a great game. I was reminded of this in trying to explain cricket to a person who had no contact or understanding at all of cricket. It was a hard task and I struggled and didn’t make a very good job of it.
Rugby brings people together, sport having a purpose, not only winning in the right spirit but sharing in something which brings people together where a deeper unexplainable enrichment takes place within the human race. There is only one human race and therefore common ground of experience.
All of the nations and teams coming here have their own objectives and fulfilment, but they are also bringing their own unique character and culture together at the tournament. Tournament rugby has its own dynamics and characteristics that need to be exercised at a different level to normal in and out Aviva Premiership rugby for example.
We as hosts will also have expectations, not only in the welcome, fellowship and sharing with so many other people but in our words and deeds and organisation that goes into making a memorable event.
Of course if your team wins or achieves beyond its own expectations then it will be memorable because it is part of wider life journey achieved through a sporting environment.
If your team wins the cup then often we will remember it even more in the wider context of the whole of life. When, for example, England beat Australia to win the cup in 2003 the whole nation erupted. I could feel it in my bones, a memorable morning for those left here in the United Kingdom and particularly in England.
So what do I really want to say to you all in this letter? All this is possible because of the act of giving something away. Giving the game of rugby to the world has created something, and continually develops something which is of lasting value to all.
By giving the game away it gave something that had lasting value, and enduring value to the world in which we all live. Physique, power, athleticism, intellect, pride, passion, joy, love, tactics, strength, courage, goals, targets and achievements. The list goes on.
This is all because the game has been given away to the world. Would it be as it is today if it had been kept by a few people? No, it is better to be given. Scripturally and spiritually it is better to give than receive, for in giving it is that a blessing is received, not that one is expected back.
God works and practices in the “giving way” from day one when God decided to start and sustain all of creation in a new way, and he gave something that runs through creation; that is his love, the love of giving.
Jesus Christ did a lot of giving. The Holy Spirit did a lot of giving. Are we glad? Yes we are! All of this giving says that we have received the great and good things in abundance and from this giving, deep and lasting relationship and relationships are formed.
The spirit of giving does have to be developed and I would like you to think of the things that have come about by giving, both for yourselves and for others. These far out-weigh any other method.
So we as Christians, as people of faith in a faithful God, are knowledgeable and experienced in the nature of a giving God. The gospel for all people is about giving the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, in word and in deed, and I know that all of you will rise up to that challenge.
Giving away the Good News says we have a confident faith, a living faith, and vibrant faith. A faith that says we have a very distinctive character with an edge to it. Enjoy living this way, giving in ministry and giving in mission.
I have proved that giving, if you are resourced and able to give in God’s way, it’s the right, it’s the way the truth and the life. God bless you all.
The Churches in Northampton are actively becoming involved in the Rugby World Cup as part of mission and Rev Romeo Pedro who specialises in all aspects of mission, and we as a ministry team will inform, help and support you in living the Christian faith, so that others will come to faith.
Rev John Marriott