Published as "Pray for the Defeated"
in Off the Wall with Padre James Bhagwan - Fiji Times Friday, January 20, 2012 http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=191240
IT is the weekend that kicks off international sevens rugby for the year.
The Fiji 7s squad will play together (perhaps not for the first time in the 2011/2012 season) for the first time in Fiji this year against international teams at Friday and Saturday's Uprising Sevens.
Perhaps the storm clouds gathering around the capital city are an indication of the thunder and lightning to be expected over this weekend in Laucala Bay.
It's been acknowledged for some time now that Rugby Sevens is our national sport ù that is the sport that unites and stops almost all activity in our group of islands, for fifteen minutes at a time.
Much like New Zealand and 15-a-side rugby, our national seven's teams success or failure, somehow seems to affect the spirit of the country.
That's not only a lot of pressure on coaches Dere and Waqa, and the team, that's a lot to play for. Win and not only do you lift the cup and the prize cheque, you lift the spirits of a nation!
Thinking of this example might lead us to consider the plight of those who do not win - not only in sport but in their lives and communities: who will spare a thought for the losers, those who constantly suffer defeats because they are denied victory because of various conditions and circumstances? Rivalry is a permanent feature not only in sport but also in political, business, cultural and, even, church life.
Wednesday was a special day for many Christian communities as it marked a possibility for hearts to be touched, and people to realise that their neighbours' ways are not so strange.
The event that touches off this special experience is something called the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Traditionally celebrated between 18-25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere), the Week of Prayer enters into congregations and parishes all over the world. Pulpits are exchanged, and special ecumenical worship services are arranged.
According to the World Council of Churches, when Jesus' disciples disputed over "who was the greatest" (Mk 9,34) it was clear that this impulse was strong. But Jesus' reaction was very simple: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all" (Mk 9,35).
These words speak of victory through mutual service, helping, boosting the self-esteem of those who are "last", forgotten, excluded.
For all Christians, the best expression of such humble service is Jesus Christ, His victory through death and His resurrection.
It is in His life, action, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection that Christians desire to seek inspiration for a modern victorious life of faith which expresses itself in social commitment in a spirit of humility, service and faithfulness to the Gospel.
And as he awaited the suffering and death that was to come, he prayed that his disciples might be one so that world might believe.
This "victory" is only possible through spiritual transformation, conversion.
That is why the World Council of Churches considers that the theme for our meditations should be those words of the Apostle to the Nations.
The point is to achieve a victory which integrates all Christians around the service of God and one's neighbour.
As Christians pray for and strive towards the full visible unity of the church they - and the traditions to which they belong - will be changed, transformed and conformed to the likeness of Christ.
The unity for which they pray may require the renewal of forms of Church life with which we are familiar. This is an exciting vision but it may fill them with some fear! The unity for which participants of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity pray is not merely a "comfortable" notion of friendliness and co-operation. It requires a willingness to dispense with competition between denomination.
We need to open ourselves to each other, to offer gifts to and receive gifts from one another, so that we might truly enter into the new life in Christ, which is the only true victory.
The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is "We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15:51-58)
This theme of "change and unity" and of opening "ourselves to each other, to offer gifts to and receive gifts from one another, so that we might truly enter into the new life," can resonate or touch the heart of each one of us, regardless of our religious traditions and affiliations.
The term, "change of heart" means changing ones opinion, belief or decision.
Our home, our country, its people, leaders and groups need to experience a revolution ù a revolution of the heart.
We need to open ourselves up and allow our hearts to be touched by those with whom we often find ourselves in conflict with ù in politics, business, social and cultural life, and in religion.
"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.
When we begin to take the lowest place, to was the feet of others, to love our brothers and sisters with that burning love, that passion, which led to the cross, then we can truly say, 'Now I have begun.' -Dorothy Day.
During the next seven days, in your mandir, mosque, church, home or wherever you create or find a sacred space; in the midst of your worship, prayers, meditations ù take a little time to pray for the unity of our people, pray for our leaders, our communities, our country.
Pray for the opening of hearts and minds. Pray that the revolution of the heart will begin in each person and manifest itself in our island nation.
* Reverend JS Bhagwan is currently based in Seoul, South Korea, studying at the Methodist Theological University's International Graduate School of Theology. Email: email@example.com