I’m not sure what your Christmas/New Year traditions include, but one of mine (not that I have many) is to attend the opening day of the Sydney Test.
Before you begin thinking that this is a long standing tradition established by my great-grandfather, I must admit that it’s only been in the last five years that I have embraced the crowds at the SCG for this, the first significant sporting event of the New Year. This year, being the 100th Test match at the ground, meant that it held greater significance than normal. Would Tendulkar score his 100th 100? (History tells us he would not.) Would the Aussies be able to continue their winning ways post Melbourne? (History tells us we will.) On top of these milestones, I found myself sitting for the first time in the recently redeveloped Victor Trumper Stand (the old Hill) looking across the sunlit ground towards both the Members’ and the Ladies’ Stands. A friend commented to me that there were plans to upgrade the facilities in the not too distant future and, lo and behold, he was right – $186 million going towards rebuilding the Bradman, Noble and Messenger stands. They look like they need some TLC.
What struck me was the fact that no matter what people’s opinions were on the current state of the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Australian Cricket Team, the value of Twenty20 Cricket, or whether or not we will reclaim the Ashes next time round, the future of cricket is deeply rooted in its past. The past cannot be discounted, nor should it be forgotten, but it would be foolish to think that Australian cricket should simply continue the way it has been as it looks to the future.
I believe that a strong parallel can be drawn to Baptist Churches across NSW and the ACT. As outlined in the much-discussed Directions 2012 research project, we are not in a position to simply carry on what has always been, but instead take the opportunity to look back to the past and celebrate who we are and what we believe. Our churches are full of stories of God’s grace and new life, especially contained in the lives of those older in the faith. I wonder how many of these stories you know? It’s this rich history that serves as a reminder of God’s work and what we as His people are to be striving towards.
The Australian cricket captain, Michael Clarke, has at his disposal countless examples of cricketers who have gone before him and conquered. I do not believe that Clarke is charting a new course; he is continuing a great tradition into a new season. For us, our responsibility is the same – to continue a great tradition of sharing the Good News of Jesus no matter the obstacle.
As we begin a new year of ministry together may I encourage you to get to know the history of your church and the stories of those who belong to it, as you look forward to how God will use you to extend His Kingdom in the year ahead. Can I encourage you also to share your story with others in your church, especially our young people. I know this has served me well in my life and ministry.