Mark 9 v 33 – 37
Three of my grandsons are serious Derby County football fans and all three are active in playing football in local teams, all this has stopped due to COVID. One of my grandsons also plays cricket and is involved with the local cricket club, but there is no cricket on the horizon as yet, so not good news on the sporting front.
I have never really been really good at sport, apart from a time in the 1990s when I regularly played Squash; I have never been a sporty type. However, as a young lad at senior school I did play in the school cricket team. We went an entire season without winning a match and were heading in the same direction in the second season.
Let me explain; there were five of us out of my form who were part of the cricket team. We joined because we got time off lessons for practice, time off lessons for playing matches, and if we played Saturday games the mums put on sandwiches and fruit juice. The five were; John Seymour (of Skiffle fame), Ian Greenwood, David (Owly) Oswell, Anthony Melvyn and me.
John Seymour was much like me; his school report could be summed up as ‘average’. He never did anything wrong but neither did he do anything exceptional. He did have one problem in that he was terrified of pain and hurting himself so when he discovered that cricket was played with a hard ball, his facial expression was that of a visit to the dentist. This fear resulted in him running away whenever the ball came anywhere near him, difficult when he was batting.
Ian Greenwood was a nice lad but at the age of 13 he was six feet (2m) tall, and as my dad said, ‘there’s more fat on a butcher’s pencil’, meaning that Ian was as thin as a bean pole. He was ‘gangly’ and when he ran his arms and legs went in different directions and his body made no forward motion.
David (Owly) Oswell had an unfortunate life, his parents were not wealthy and all of David’s clothes were handed down from his older brother, and were already well worn when David received them. Unfortunately David was two sizes smaller than his brother so trousers were turned up or often cut off by his mum, and similarly the arms of jumpers were the same. David’s big problem was his eye sight; he had to wear spectacles, national health ‘John Lennon’ style with lenses that had, in a previous life, been milk bottle bottoms. This tended to appear to magnify his eyes and put together with his round shaped face and his mother’s extra short hair- cut, he had the appearance of an owl, hence the nickname of ’owly’.
Tony Melvyn was everything that was opposite to Owly, his parents were wealthy, and Tony always had the best fashion clothes of the best quality, he was academically brilliant, and he was captain of the school football team and captain of the school cricket team. Tony was destined for greatness – and knew it.
A twist of fate revealed itself in a Saturday match with a posh school from Harrogate, the game started as expected, with Tony belting the ball all over the ground and no one else scoring a run. Ian Greenwood tried to run but his gangly arms and legs knocked his wicket over so he was out.
Then it was Seymour’s turn to bat. As the bowler ran up to bowl John ran behind the wicket keeper to hide but the ball unexpectedly caught the edge of his bat and shot off like a bullet the boundary. Seymour for the first time (and I think the last) had scored four runs. He was bowled out next ball but it didn’t matter he had scored four runs.
The match continued and even Tony Melvyn eventually ran out of energy and we were all out for 54 runs, Tony scored 50 and Seymour scored 4,
The surprise was that the Harrogate Team was no better that we were, they had one good player and the rest were clones of us, scoring nothing.
It came down to the last man and Tony bowled to their good player who took an almighty swing with his bat and sent the ball up into the sky like an Apollo space rocket. It went so high it was almost out of view, then, like an exhausted firework on bonfire night it started to descend, directly in line with Owly who was on the boundary.
People were shouting, ‘get out of the way’ and ‘look out Owly’, and Tony was shouting ‘catch it’.
Owly, on the other hand was totally bewildered, he stood with the palms of his hands facing upwards shrugging his shoulders, saying, ‘what?’. And it was into one of his upturned hands that the ball landed and stuck there. Owly looked at the ball as if to say, ‘where did that come from’ and only then did he realise he had won the game.
Tony Melvyn got the man of the match award, well after all he did score 50 runs and got all the wickets, but we knew who had really won the match, it was Seymour’s four runs and Owly’s catch.
On the following Monday morning we all went into school assembly in anticipation that the Headmaster would announce that the School under 15 Cricket Team had won a match, but he didn’t, so that was that, we never won another match and our triumph would just dissolve into my memories and be regurgitated as a Pause for Thought almost 60 years later, but I know about it because I was there.
Mark 9 33 – 37
Jesus turned preconceived ideas of greatness upside down in his address to the disciples. They argued as to which of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, who would have the power, authority or the most influence over others? In one instance even one of their mothers got involved in the same question asking that her sons would be at the left and right hand of Jesus. How did they perceive greatness? Perhaps as being the most praised of the group, or the one who receives the most congratulations, or is considered with esteem above all the others. Who is the most important?
Luke 14 v 7 – 14
Here Jesus guides us to the irrelevance of importance. In his parable Jesus taught not to go straight to the top table at a banquet as someone may be more important than you, take a seat close to the door and wait to be invited to the top table.
Don’t forget Jesus chose to wash the feet of his disciples rather than the other way round; he came to serve not to be served despite being the Son of God. If he is the servant then so are we servants to each other.
The way to greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven is to serve, care and love others and to disregard one’s self.