Saints and Sporting Heroes

Happy St Andrew’s Day! This morning’s Thought for the Day was on the topic of looking after those who come after us. Andrew did it, Andy does it, why don’t we all do it? Here’s the full text or,  as usual, you can listen again here at around 7.20am.

Good morning.

St Andrew’s Day offers us the chance to stop and take stock of who we are as a nation. We all know that as Scots we have both good and bad national characteristics. We’re loyal, brave and independently minded, but we can also be thrawn, dour and quick to put down anyone who’s getting too big for their boots. We don’t always cheer each other on, and we’re often surprised when a Scot does well. That’s why it’s great to hear that Sir Andy Murray, whose outwardly dour manner countered by emotional honesty has won over the nation, is investing in the talent of the next generation. Murray, a Grand Slam-winning Olympian, has spoken about how he wants to help younger sportsmen and women negotiate the pressures of the sporting life and achieve their potential. He is personally mentoring younger athletes, and plans to leverage his success to cheer on those who come after him.

Another famous Andrew, our patron saint, was also known for his encouragement of others. We first encounter him going about his business as a fisherman in Galilee. When he saw Jesus, and recognised that he was someone special, he decided to follow him. John’s gospel tells us that] the next thing he did was to go and find his brother, Simon, and tell him that he had found the Messiah, the saviour promised by God. St Andrew was the living embodiment of a man who, having discovered the answer to his spiritual searching, wanted to share what he had found. He didn’t want Simon to miss out on what was on offer.

It’s a selfless act, and leaves me feeling quite challenged about how I pass on what I’ve learned to other people. Too often our increasingly individualistic society encourages us to live for ourselves and forget about helping others. Perhaps our national saint and our national sporting hero have something in common other than a shared name. We all have gifts, talents, wisdom and knowledge that we can pass on. The challenging part is whether we’re prepared to put ourselves out in order to see others succeed, even if it means we get less glory ourselves. Selfless living. Wouldn’t that be a great national characteristic to be known for?

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Remember, remember…

Glorious views on the Clyde this morning – all was peace and tranquillity as the skyline glowed into life. Switch on the news, however, and the world feels a lot less peaceful, so a bit of escapist TV is what we hanker for…isn’t it? Full thought below, or you can listen again here at  1:23:09.


Good morning.

In a world of violent news, religious strife and allegations of inappropriate conduct, it’s always a temptation to escape into a world of autumnal cosiness with some catch-up TV. That was the thought in my head last week when I tuned into Gunpowder, a big budget historical dramatisation of the events of 1605 when Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby and others plotted to blow up the House of Lords. Within the first few minutes, I was drawn into the suspense of a time when religious strife and power struggles led to the brutal persecution of the minority Catholic faith. As events unfolded, the level of brutality shown in the production was both stomach-churning and shocking. So much for escapism.

 

If you’ve been watching this series, you may also have found yourself on the one hand enjoying the intrigue and exploration of a fascinating period of history, and on the other repulsed by the graphic nature of the violence shown. I chose to continue watching, although I thought carefully about it, and the images of torture from the first episode, together with the sounds of the baying crowd, stayed in my mind after the credits rolled.

 

I was still mulling this over the next day when I was reading the account of the crucifixion. The images and sounds of the escapist TV I had watched the night before added a fresh understanding, and I found myself meditating on the violence and the unfairness of the crucifixion. For Christians, the death of Jesus symbolises God’s love, the sacrifice of his son and the atonement for sin. It is pivotal to what I believe, but sometimes I forget what it was really like. It’s easy to turn off the TV when we encounter something unpleasant, but sometimes well-told fiction that makes us uncomfortable helps us make sense of reality.

 

The reality is that pain, violence and strife is something we all experience, either personally or as we engage with difficult news around us. Choosing to live with kindness and compassion, choosing to challenge injustice and champion truth, choosing love over violence is not an escape from brutal reality but rather a response that gives hope a space to flourish.