Monday, 13 October 2014

I watched Bathurst... and didn't go to church.

I seriously enjoyed the Bathurst 1000 on Sunday. I got up early and watched it from start to finish, I yelled at the screen when Mark Winterbottom was spun just laps from the end, I jumped from my seat on the last lap when Chaz Mostert passed Jamie Whincup at Forest Elbow and I cheered (and possibly even cried) as he crossed the line winning for Ford… and you know what… even though it was Sunday… I didn’t go to a church service.

I was disappointed to hear a few little grumblings on that front – or some insinuations regarding ‘choosing sport over God’, because I certainly don’t feel I did that at all. Let me explain.

I openly admit I do love motorsport, all kinds. V8 Supercars is certainly my favourite variety of motorsport, having been involved in the series as an official and a chaplain for almost 10 years. The Bathurst 1000 is the biggest and best race in this series, it’s the biggest and best race in Australia hands down (if not the world) and has such a long rich history. Not only that, but my family has such a long history with this race. From the earliest time I remember watching it every year with my Dad (who remembers watching it with his Dad), I learnt only the other day that he and Mum sent money to Dick Johnson as part of that outcry of support after he hit the rock in 1981, my grandfather and his brothers all worked for Ford when they immigrated to Australia from Malta and I grew up hearing stories about building all the famous Falcons, the XY GTHO, XC Cobra and many others. For most of my life the name Sandham has been synonymously linked with Ford, building them, driving them, supporting them and hot rodding them.

And though I do admit all that, I also confidently say that motorsport, Fords, or cars in general are not an idol in my life. When I was 17, with my new license and first Ford (a 1986 Laser) it probably did become an idol for a while, but as I grew in faith I have very much addressed that and continued to as the years have gone on. I have even turned down opportunities at times for purchasing some truly beautiful cars because of where God had me in my life or in checking my motives I wasn’t convinced I was following His plan properly.

But I do drive a Falcon, and I do watch Bathurst every year (religiously you could say), yet I feel I can do this an honour God while doing so. God created me an individual, He created me with passion, with love, with a sense of duty and the ability to enjoy love, passion, commitment and fun. He even placed me in a specific family, in a specific country at a specific time. He did all this on top of the fact that He sent His Son to come and step in place for the punishment of my sin. First and foremost I am eternally thankful and resolutely faithful to Jesus and what He did for me, but I feel a great thanks also for the way God created me, the passions and family He has given me.

Sometimes I wonder if as we strive for dutiful religious following of Jesus we shun the idea of praising God by enjoying the passions He has created us with. We have an idea regarding the dutiful attendance at church each week (possibly twice each week) and it becomes legalistic in the sense that we regard anyone who doesn’t do this as inferior or uncommitted or even a heathen. For that reason alone I don’t mind missing a church service here or there, just to show that even though I am committed to Jesus, and the life He’s called me to (which certainly includes being involved in my local church) I am not legalistically holding to anything that promotes a work based or evaluation based belief.

But there’s more to it as well. I truly believe I can honour God in my passion for motorsport by including Him in my passion for motorsport. Directly I have known following God’s plan to be involved with chaplaincy has allowed me to do this by serving the motor racing community in Jesus’ name, but even in watching I think in a prayerful awareness and pure enjoyment I can glorify God for who He is as Creator, by enjoying who He created me to be. Watching on Sunday I joined in heart as V8 Chaplain Garry Coleman prayed on live TV before the race, I prayed for drivers and marshals as I saw accidents and conflicts arise. I conversed with Dad as we sat and watched together and encouraged and loved my nephews when they came for lunch to; ‘watch “Frosty” and “Number 5” with Uncle Dean.’

For me Bathurst was a celebration of family, passion and ministry – I do not feel any sin in putting that before going to church on one day each year. I know as a Pastor there is are extra obligations due to my employment, but I was on my annual leave break this year so those considerations don’t really fit here.

Hopefully you can see by the length and depth of this post, that this mode of thinking has only come about because of lots of in-depth consideration on my part and years of self-reflection to engage Jesus in a proper and passionate way. It’s not simply an excuse to not go out on Sunday and sit in front of the TV instead. For some it is, for some motorsport or sport in general is an idol. For some it keeps them from serving or worshiping God. I think sport, music, tv, movies, arts, and personal enjoyments need to be carefully considered but each person is created with certain passions, and if we find ways to enjoy honouring God through those passions, we will be much happier, and feel a better sense of freedom and a closer interaction with Jesus day by day and not just when we dutifully apply it in only certain areas of our life.

So I will continue to passionately say “GO FORD”!!!

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