Monday, 24 October 2011

A Sermon For The Rugby World Cup Final

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to our church congregation on the subject of "being content in all circumstances" ... a timely subject, I thought, given the impending Rugby World Cup final.

I started with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Romans 8:35-39, and Phillipians 4:6-7 and 11-13. A simple summary is that people who trust God and receive forgiveness through Jesus should not be perturbed by changing circumstances. It's sometimes appropriate to feel sad and grieve --- Jesus did --- but our internal peace and security should not be affected.

These are relatively well-known passages but it's easy to see that this is not true in the lives of most Christians ... certainly not for those NZers I know who watch rugby games from behind the couch! So the focus of my message was getting from knowing how we should feel to actually feeling it.

Some people believe that our feelings are mostly immutable, beyond our conscious control. I don't agree. God doesn't ask us to do the impossible. Furthermore I have some experience at training my feelings in certain directions. A small example is how I've vowed, even on this blog, to get less emotionally involved in rugby games. Thinking and talking about that helps make the feelings follow.

Another example is love and marriage. I think it's very important to act lovingly towards your spouse whenever possible, even if you don't feel like it at the time, or you think it doesn't matter. In our culture people habitually joke about having a poor relationship with their spouse --- jokes about nagging wives, selfish husbands, relationships with in-laws, and all that. I think these traditions are destructive. Even small intimacies like holding hands are good habits and promote positive feelings. They're worth consciously maintaining.

The idea of acting in a certain way to encourage feelings to follow raises the possibility of that one becomes a hypocrite. I think it depends whether your goal is to promote genuine feelings in yourself, or to convince the world you're something you're not. In C.S. Lewis' "Surprised By Joy", he wrote:

The distinction between pretending to be better than you are and beginning to be better in reality is finer than moral sleuthhounds conceive…. When a boor first enters the society of courteous people what can he do, for a while, except imitate the motions? How can he learn except by imitation?

Christians must remember that change is not something that comes about just through our own efforts. Paul says he can do all this "through he [Jesus] who gives me strength". We believe in self-improvement, but "of self", not "by self".

Christian equanimity isn't about detachment. None of the passages quoted tell us to care less about other people or what's going on in the world. We don't need to walk along a razor's edge between caring too much and caring too little. Instead, we can continue to care about all sorts of things, but put them in the right perspective: dwarfed by God.

As it happens, the All Blacks managed to win last night, but it was a tense game and I hope some of the people who heard this message put it into practice. :-) There will be lots of more important opportunities to do so.

A Few Words On The Rugby World Cup

Now that we've won the RWC, I can make a few comments without sounding like a sore loser.

The RWC knock-out format means that the result is largely determined by luck --- more precisely, factors beyond the control of the winning team. The All Blacks were lucky to win last night. France were unlucky to lose, but were lucky to make the final at all.

It makes no sense for commenters to ascribe victory to "destiny", "will to win" etc when France could have won with a penalty kick that they simply missed.

I like watching rugby, but the subjectiveness of referring is a great flaw in the game. Ideally a game should not only be fair, but should be clearly seen to be fair. Rugby is seldom the latter.

I think all NZ supporters should sympathise with French supporters who feel they were cheated by the referee. Most of us know how they feel, from 2007.

The All Blacks choked. They still managed to win the game (luckily, see above), but it was clear they crumbled under the pressure, at least some of them did. It was surprising since it seemed that last week's game against Australia was higher-pressure.

I hope success at this World Cup doesn't obscure the lessons that should be learned for the next one from this near-disastrous performance.

I really enjoyed the game and I'm glad we won, but I think I could even have enjoyed it if the French had won, as I earlier pledged.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Web Directions South

Today and tomorrow I'm going to be at Web Directions South in Sydney. Today I'm giving a talk about the importance of Web standards in light of the challenges to the Web from mobile application platforms, and also platforms that are based on Web technology but "privatized" by various means (such as Windows 8, the Chrome app store, and Webkit-only mobile Web sites). It should be fun!

Thursday, 6 October 2011


I've never really liked Steve Jobs and I see no reason to start now.

However, I think the story of the rise and fall and rising again of Steve Jobs and Apple is amazing and deserves much telling. It's far more interesting than Facebook, so far.

I remember the dark days of Apple pretty well, when Guy Kawasaki leading a small band of crazy fans seemed to be all that was keeping Apple going. Those were the days of Copland, Cyberdog, OpenDoc, Dylan and Newton. I remember "The Apple engineer <unknown> has unexpectedly quit" T-shirts. I remember when Jobs returned and started shaking up Apple, scathing comments from ex-Apple employees at CMU describing him as "mentally ill". (Jim, I'm thinking of you :-).) I remember when the iPod was launched in 2001 and friends said "that'll never sell!"

I also remember when it was unthinkable that a platform vendor could dictate by fiat what applications they would and would not allow to run on their platform. I remember when the idea that a major company would wield bogus software patents to eliminate competitors was anathema.

How far we've come.