Tuesday, February 26, 2008

World Cup Soccer (Football) 2018 bid

I hate soccer.

It is lauded as the "world game." So often in Australia people cringe at the dominance of American culture and resist it as strongly as possible. So why then are people falling so madly in love with the dull round ball game? To do so is as much an abandonment of Australian culture as pursuing American culture is.

Kevin Rudd has announced that Australia will bid for the 2018 soccer world cup. Arguments are always made about the economic advantages of large events. No doubt that is true. But arguments have also been made that a world cup would help "social cohesion" for Australia with the rest of the world.

Australia needs to be secure in its own identity. The Australian populace right now thinks that we need to get with the rest of the world and join in the "world game". As an Aussie living in Russia I feel I have something to say about the "world game". Russia is another country that is often insecure in its identity and wants to be like the rest of the world. Russia used to be a champion nation at ice hockey. Canadians remember the glory of defeating the Soviet Union at ice hockey in the early 70s because the Soviet Union ice hockey team was a force to be reckoned with. There are still Russian players in the NHL, but I think that will decline in the future.
Ice hockey is dropping in popularity in Russia because of soccer. There are outdoor ice hockey rinks in neighbourhoods all over Russia, but they don't get used any more. People play soccer on them, all year round. I have often marvelled at the craziness of people running around playing soccer at -20 degrees. Russians are now mad about soccer. They want to be like Europe. Young people want the money that soccer offers in Europe. But somehow they have forgotten that the NHL also pay big money in ice hockey. Soccer is killing Russian culture. Russians do ice hockey well, but not soccer.
The Russian national team can not even qualify for the world cup. Russia is the most populated country in Europe. Europe have more seeds at the world cup than any other region. All of Russia's sporting muscle is being poured into soccer these days and yet they still can not qualify for the world cup. They have thrown their ice hockey legacy away for the dull round ball game.

If Australia insists on pursuing this love affair with soccer we will also throw away much of our heritage. We actually already have two world games that we are very good at. Cricket is a world game. No one can dispute this. Cricket is only growing in popularity in the world. It may not be as big as soccer, but it is actually second. There is more and more money in cricket all the time, due to the booming Indian economy. We have a world game that we are champions at, why do we need to pursue soccer at the expense of other sports?
Rugby Union is another world game that Australia is good at. Rugby is also growing in popularity in Europe. The Rugby Union world cup was held last year in France. France won the Rugby world cup in 1999. Italy are also pursuing the game of Rugby. Australians feel we should pursue soccer because it is big in Europe. But this is simply an attitude of following. If we want to be leaders then we should continue to lead in the sports we are good at.

If Australia is to host the 2018 soccer world cup then the AFL and NRL will have to suspend their seasons in the middle of the year in June and July. This is because the soccer world cup has to be held during the European off season. It seems ludicrous that Aussie Rules and Rugby should have to shut down so that Australia can watch soccer. This is a bit strangulating and arrogant of soccer. They would have to take over all of the large stadiums in Australia to make the world cup happen.
The AFL and NRL have legal rights to the stadiums during the winter. So legally they should have the power to stop the world cup from coming to Australia. The AFL were pressured by the government to accept an international drug code that they were not keen to sign for various reasons. It would be a shame and disgrace if the governments of Australia pressure the AFL and NRL into suspending their 2018 seasons.

Aussie Rules football is the only truly Australian game. It was invented in rural Victoria in the 1850s. It has its roots in three sports- an Australian Aboriginal ball game played with a ball made of possum hide and certain aspects of Gaelic Football and Rugby. Tom Wills is credited with the invention of the game in 1858, Wills grew up playing the Aboriginal game with Aboriginal children in western Victoria during the 1840s.
If social cohesion is something we desire in Australia then Aussie Rules Football is well qualified to do this. Aussie Rules is the most popular sport in indigenous Australia. Recent programs in South Africa have seen white and black children playing Aussie Rules together. It is viewed as the sport of reconciliation in South Africa, as soccer is the sport for black people and rugby for white people. Soccer however in Europe has a long history of racially motivated violence. How is this good for social cohesion?

Of course the biggest indictment against soccer is that it is boring. Many of the games end in 0-0 or 1-1 draws. Many soccer world cups have been decided on penalty shoot outs. Cricket has been accused of being boring in the past. But draws are almost non existent in test cricket these days. In limited overs cricket a tie is extremely rare. Draws proliferate in soccer.
Soccer scores are always low. Even in professional ice hockey, scores are regularly 6-5 or 4-3 etc. Scores in Rugby usually get up to 20 or 30 points. Scores in Aussie Rules football usually get up to 100 points. An Aussie rules game will usually see around 10 or more goals per team.

Soccer is boring and a dull cancer on the cultural heritage of Australia. Soccer is greedy and wants to crush all other sports in its wake including ice hockey and Aussie rules football.

I hate soccer and hope it never succeeds in Australia.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Indian Premier League- Revolution by design?

Well the storm in the cricket world has not calmed down. In many ways it is only getting hotter. There are so many opinions flying around at the moment that it is hard to get a grasp on them all and condense them in to any sort of neat conclusion. I have a few theories of my own that I would like to develop.

I have been saying for a little while that cricket needs a revolution. The ICC hold a very tight reign on the game and there is little room to budge outside of their boundaries. Cricket has long been seen as the gentleman's game, but there really aren't too many walking around in top hats and coats with canes anymore.

But is the impending revolution good for cricket? This is yet to be seen and could supposedly go either way.
An examination of the facts is in order. Cricket is an ancient game and it has a lot of traditions. Coming into the 1960s the English were experimenting with the game. As often as the English get accused of being slow to accept change, they are the ones who have often brought in new innovations. The English developed the 60 over per side game in the 1960s. The original concept was to give each team one innings to bat. A test match lasts five days. On average one innings takes one day. The fifth day is supposed to help encourage a result. A days play usually lasts 90 overs. So the 60 over concept was to give each team a full innings to bat, as much as could be squashed into one day. When these games originally began people did not think about scoring runs fast, they were still trying to protect their wickets.

The game then evolved. It was decided that 60 overs per side was too much to squeeze into one day. Fifty overs per side was a more manageable amount. The early world cups were played with 55 overs per side. Scoring was not high.

A young Dennis Lillee.

The next big change was the World Series revolution brought on by Kerry Packer in Australia in the late 70s. He wanted to wrestle the tv rights away from ABC to his network GTV 9. The conservative approach of the Australian Cricket Board (A.C.B) meant that they would not negotiate with Kerry Packer, so he made his own money do the talking. What followed was very successful for him. Super Tests, Australia vs a World XI and the first World Series Cup limited overs games (until that point the only limited overs games were at the world cup and English county level) proved to be popular among the Australian public. The money that Packer offered was significantly more than the A.C.B could pay players. His revolution was successful. Within a few years A.C.B rewarded the tv rights to Packer and a new World Series Cup (tri-nations tournaments) was played every Summer in Australia. This was indeed a revolution in cricket. Coloured clothing and day-night matches came in through Australia. Now they are common place. England started the limited overs concept, Australia delivered the revolution.

When the World Series revolution came in the late 70s, everybody thought that the death of test cricket was imminent. (A little like people said VCRs would kill the cinema, or how people today say that downloading will kill the music industry.) Everybody was wrong (apart from those that disagreed!) One day cricket has only strengthened the game of cricket. Players over the years learnt to score faster. This eventually transferred to test cricket. In the early days of World Series cricket, a run rate of 4 an over was considered acceptable and 5 an over was high. Today in one day cricket a run rate of 6 an over is more acceptable. A run rate of 4 or 5 is normal in test cricket, where as 2 or per over was once normal in test cricket. One Day cricket has in turn made test cricket exciting.

But, let's not forget why One Day cricket was invented in the first place, for mass entertainment and profitability. These values seem to be so normal these days. Values of honour and loyalty are almost a thing of the past. This makes Justin Langer's decision to honour his County Cricket commitments and not play in the Indian Premier League, all the more remarkable.

One Day cricket was developed for fast entertainment, as has Twenty20 cricket. The unititiated may think that Twenty20 has been invented because test cricket is boring. This is a lack of understanding. Test cricket is like a mature wine. Twenty20 is like a can of coke. There is some overlap between the two markets, but they are actually separate markets. The reality is that Twenty20 does not threaten test cricket, but 50 overs cricket. Within five to ten years Twenty20 will be thriving and 50 overs cricket will be fading out. Test cricket will stay strong and even grow stronger as the run rates continue to rise off the back of Twenty20. Once again it has been England who have delivered the concept, this time it is India delivering the revolution.

Cricket has been at a low point internationally for at least a few years now. The Australian team have been so strong, which while it is a lot of fun for Australians, is not much fun for anyone else. The ICC have been weak in so many areas of managing the game. (I have written about this on other occasions, you can read these examples by clicking the "cricket" label in the side bar.) The World Cup in 2007 was a low point. Shortly following India's exit from the World Cup, the owner of Zee Tv announced he would set up a rebel competition, the "Indian Cricket League." He had an idea to carry out a revolution and could have been successful. Perhaps the BCCI learnt from the ACB's mistakes in the 70s. They did not let the ICL and Zee TV win the day. The Indian Premier League has been a reaction to the ICL.

The IPL is a successful concept because it is approved by the BCCI. The most popular Indian players can continue to play test cricket while playing in the IPL. Had they played for the ICL they would have forfeited their international careers. The IPL is also successful because there is a LOT of money being thrown at it. Each of the 8 franchises were sold by BCCI for $700 million. The TV rights were sold for $800 million. That is a total of US $6.4 billion. No other cricket board in the world can ever dream of such money. The ICC can never dream of such money. Overnight the BCCI have become the most dominant force in cricket. Their pulling and pushing power now outweighs all cricket boards and the ICC combined.

This is a coup in world cricket, Just exactly what will result remains to be seen. The old guard are not happy though. The ECB have not allowed any English cricketers to play in the IPL. The county clubs are insisting that all contracts be honoured. Meanwhile the BCCI and IPL are putting pressure on the ICC to create an official six week window for the tournament every year and pressure on the ECB to change the county calendar.

Could Australia or England or South Africa come up with a competition to actually rival the IPL? That is highly doubtful. India has the world's biggest booming economy now. Growth is outstripping China. The middle class in India outnumber the population of the USA. Everybody wants a slice of the Indian market. For the first time there is now an Indian owned Formula 1 team this year named "Force India." (Since when have Indians ever been in to Formula 1 and motor racing?) Cricket is big in India, very big. If any marketer wants to be successful in India, then they would do well to have a cricketer market their product. There is just no way to compete with the economic force of India.

There might not be enough money for a direct rival competition, but there is still money elsewhere apart from India. Cricket Australia and the ECB should fast rethink their strategy. It is agreed by all cricket lovers that test cricket must survive. But why hold on tightly to 50 overs cricket? It should be scrapped at the nearest opportunity from the Summer calendar. International games do not need to be played often at either the Twenty20 or 50 over level. These can be reserved for the odd "friendly" game, World Cup tournaments and World Cup qualifiers, much like in soccer. The calendar should be divided between Twenty 20 Super Leagues and test cricket. Take the example of Rugby Union in the southern hemisphere. The first three months of the rugby season are played out in a "Super 14" by professional teams from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The second three months of the rugby season are reserved for international test matches.

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would be wise to act soon and set up a southern hemisphere Twenty 20 Super League. England and the Carribean countries can do the same in the northern Summer. Pakistan, Sri Lankan and Bangladesh teams and players can join in an expanded Indian Premier League. So long as enough room is left in the calendar for test matches and world cups, such a plan will work.

If a workable compromise in not sought soon with the money makers of the game, then they will continue to advance their take over bid. Where that will end is anybody's guess.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'm just a proud Dad

When I was a kid playing with Lego was my favourite indoor activity. So as a parent I have wasted no time in introducing my child to the joys of Lego. Abigail and I often build things together. It is more often I than her that does the building and Abigail likes to add pieces and animals on top. Often, if she is playing alone she will come up to me with something small she has built (often an animal on top of a couple blocks) and say "show Daddy, show Daddy."
Normally, when Abigail does something it will appear on her blog. Abigail is also an accomplished blogger. If you want to view it, then ask me for directions via email. But on this occasion Abigail did not "show Daddy." I simply discovered her construction later in the evening. For a 2 1/2 year old, I like to think that she has done an excellent job. So today, I am showing off the lego skills of my daughter. To those of you who don't have kids, you probably think "big deal!" But, hey, I'm just a proud Dad.

Indian Premier League

Andrew Symonds will be paid AUD $1.47 to play in the new Indian Premier League.

The cricket world is a buzz at the moment. Today the world's leading players have been auctioned to the 8 Indian franchises in the new Twenty20 competition to start in April. It will run for 6 weeks with the final on June 1st.
MS Dhoni is the highest paid Indian player at USD $1.5 million. Andrew Symonds is the highest paid Australian at USD $1.35 million. It is exciting to see cricket players get paid more than ever before in their careers. There is a lot of money for cricket in India, most of it coming from television rights.
I have long argued that a Super League is needed in cricket. I actually wrote to Cricket Australia about this a few years back, but they never replied to my letter. An Indian Premier League does not mean such a concept is not possible in Australia, but since there is talk of future competitions being officially scheduled into the ICC schedule, there may not be a lot of room in the calendar. Considering that a maximum of 16 Australians can play in the competition, Australians may become hungry for similar entertainment on home soil.
All of the teams will be quite multicultural in nature. This should hopefully go a long way to mending some of the racial controversies of the Australian Summer.
It seems the revolution in cricket has begun, albeit tightly controlled by the ICC.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I can't fill in the gaps

Living in another culture does funny things to you. I enjoy living in Russia. I have adjusted a lot over the last couple years to life in Russia. While I still have a long way to go, a lot of it feels normal. One of the things that happen when one lives some where else is that the lives of people back home go on separately. In fact the life of the whole country goes on without me. I try to take the time to keep up with what is going on in Australia, so that I will not be ignorant when I am there. But, the reality is that I can read all of the headlines and understand all the issues. But I can't seem to fill in the gaps.
The formal apology to the stolen generations is the perfect example. As much as it was very special to see, and even declare my agreement, I still did not feel a part of it. I was unable to stand in Federation Square with other Aussies and corporately apologise together. I was unable to gauge the emotion of people on the streets. These things can simply not be done from a distance.
The Bali bombing happened on October 12th, 2002. I saw reports of it for the first time on the plane in Canada when my new wife and I were on our honey moon. It was shocking and I felt moved by it. A couple years later, when I was back in Australia, a friend told me that the climate in Australia changed after that event. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice. Some how, I did not feel as deeply affected though. I was not in Australia at the time, or even shortly afterwards, and I did not corporately take part in the grief Australia shared at the time. I realised that it was something about Australia that I would never properly understand.
I think these are the roots of reverse culture shock. There are certain things, that happen, that no matter how much I hear about them, I am still not a participant in, but merely a spectator. Then when I return to Australia, I will never be able to completely relate to people on certain things, because I will not have experienced it. At least I have been to Gallipoli, an experience that many Australians have never had, but that made me feel more Australian than ever.
I guess I am changing. I will always love my country, and I will always be an Australian. But I will always be an expatriate too, and will always have something in me that is different from the average Aussie.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The AFL has set a date

Late last year the AFL brought down an ultimatum on the North Melbourne Football Club to move to the Gold Coast. When the NMFC declined the AFL's $110 million offer the AFL were forced to come up with a new plan. Shortly after plan A failed the AFL announced that they would bring a 17th team into the competition by 2010.
This week the AFL have made a new announcement. They will not have a new team by 2010. This has been due to the fact that many Melbourne teams have dragged their heels. The AFL have been forced to finance completely any expansion. The first of these new teams will be in 2011 on the Gold Coast. It may be a little later than ideal considering that Soccer and Rugby League are expanding there also, but in the scheme of things it will not be too late. The second new team will be in 2012 in western Sydney. This will bring the competition up to 18 teams, assuming that the 10 Melbourne teams continue to survive.
The AFL will need to spend a lot of money to prop up these two teams in the early years as NSW and QLD are rugby states. But the teams will turn a profit in the long run.
New teams in NSW and QLD will mean there will be new rivalries with two teams in each state. This will only strengthen the sport in the long run too.
I for one am excited about this growth. I just wonder how long it will be before a VIctorian team goes under.

Music taste

My first post on this blog was about musical nostalgia. As one moves through life it is more of a challenge to take on new things. It is sometimes easier to fall back on the known and trusted. This is certainly the case when it comes to music taste. It is even harder to take on new taste when disconnected from the mainstream of the musical culture of which I have been a part.

Before living in Canada I boasted that I would listen to almost any form of music apart from Country music. This was actually quite a bigoted attitude, and one which many Melburnians hold. Then when I lived in Saskatchewan, Country music was often the back ground music in truck stops and on the radio. It became a part of the landscape and psyche. As always, lyrics are important and I did not like everything I heard, but there was a calmness and spirit that grew on me. After living in Canada for two years, country music grew on me.
I would often lament that the one Rock station in Saskatoon was seriously outdated and played very little new music. They were stuck in the 70s and played way too much AC/DC. So it did become harder to keep up with new creative music in the genres I had listened to. Many of my friends in Canada had creative music tastes. This was fostered by a community of people with similar tastes. Even though people found new material on the internet, they would always share it with their friends and so people stayed in the loop.
Since living in Russia I have been out of all my old loops of picking up on new music. I don't even listen to the radio here, partly because I don't have one. Perhaps I should get one. Perhaps this shows that the radio is actually fading out. But there have been times when I have noticed Russian music that I like and I have purchased it. I purchased a disco of MP3s by a singer called Yulia Sachikova after seeing her video on tv. I purchased another disc by a group called DDT after hearing the music in a taxi and asking the drive what it was. When you are a part of the landscape then it is easier to pick up on local music, despite the presence of the internet.
The music I have purchased in the last couple years has all been from groups that I have listened to in the past- Silverchair, Radiohead, Vineyard Worship. I subscribe to Delirious?'s email and am looking forward to their new album in April. For Christmas I received some iTunes credit from my sister in law. It took me a long time to buy something. I was determined to buy something new, but I could not find anything that I like. I have asked people to recommend music in the past, but that hasn't elicited much response. After looking for a few weeks I decided it was a waste of time, and that I should fill out my back catologue. I realised that there are some early Midnight Oil records that I don't have. But iTunes Canada did not even have them, which really sucked. So that didn't work.

The other day I finally spent my credit. A DVD came for Abigail in the mail. It was the Curious George movie. Abigail has watched it numerous times, including the Jack Johnson video for "Upside Down." I decided that I liked his music enough to give it a shot, even though I didn't find his latest record inspiring. (I prefer my music to be rockier.) I also purchased "King of Fools" by Delirious? as "Mezzamorphis" was the earliest I had.
I'm not sure whether I am getting too old to find new music. I have also heard many say that there is nothing good coming out these days, as the music industry is gasping for air. Others would claim that grass roots music is thriving. I guess the record industry is a topic for another day.
Oh well, bring on the new U2 record.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why say sorry?

Today I am basking in the after glow of one of the most important and historic days for Australia. I finally managed to watch the full 30 minute speech after midnight, but was happy to get to bed late so as to somehow feel included in such a momentous occasion for Australia. I watched in sadness and joy as so many Aboriginal people said thank you for the apology. There were so many tears, but there was also a release, and understanding that perhaps a Federal government would actually start listening to them.
Previous governments may have claimed that they were doing all that was possible to help Indigenous Australia. But there was an important factor missing. Previous governments did not acknowledge the pain that Aboriginals experienced. It is a little like the addage of the past "Children should be seen and not heard.... or "Speak when you are spoken to." Previous Australian governments have had attitudes of paternalism towards Aboriginal cultures, believing that they would tell Aboriginal people what was best for them.
The only way forward is to listen to Aboriginal peoples and to act in partnership with them.

Some Australians, Brendan Nelson (leader of the opposition) in particular have claimed that this current generation does not own the actions of previous generations. That may be so, but we can apologise on their behalf. The response of so many stolen generations people yesterday shows that they appreciate the apology. Is it really that hard to say sorry? Isn't this one of the first things that our parents taught us when we were little?

Daniel and Nehemiah in the Bible both chose to repent of the sins of their nation from previous generations. They were both godly men, but they also knew that no one is without sin. They repented for the sins of the Israelites that worshipped false idols even though they did not worship these idols themselves. As Christians, this should be enough of a Biblical precedent for us to do the same.

One Liberal politician, Tuckey, made a point of saying the Lord's Prayer loudly at the opening of Parliament, and then promptly walked out. This is hardly a good witness.

Patrick Dodson, an Aboriginal leader even spoke of forgiveness in The Age newspaper this morning. Wow, there really is hope and I am excited about this.

Apology and Forgiveness will open the doors for true spiritual blessing on Australia. Perhaps if Australians want to see rain, we should say sorry first.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm sorry too

The official wording of the apology given by Australian Federal Parliament today to the stolen generations of Australian Indigenous Peoples:

"Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

I for one lend my support to all of the above words. A national sorry movement has been going for over ten years now. I remember signing the national sorry book when I was a student at university. Some may claim that as they had nothing to do with the past grievances that they have nothing to apologise for. There is no grace in this attitude. These are grievances between races and nations. For healing to happen, our current generation must apologise for the "sins of our fathers". Otherwise we perpetuate the same grievances in the present day.

I am sorry Indigenous Australia for all the pain, we as white settlers have caused you over the last two centuries. I am also especially sorry for the pain we caused you in taking away your children during the stolen generations.

In the spirit of reconciliation, I humbly ask that Indigenous Australia forgive White Australia for our sins. Let us move forward as One Country together while at the same time respecting each others cultural diversity and languages.

For those Canadians, Europeans and Americans who do not understand this issue you can watch a movie called "Rabbit Proof Fence." Please do not judge us. All nations have sins that require repentance.

God Bless all Australians, and may we one day truly be known as the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.

Sorry speeches

I had a read of Brendan Nelson's speech. It was full of half hearted excuses for the mistakes of the past and a half hearted sorry. I can understand why people booed at his speech. I'm not a fan of the Labor government or Kevin Rudd. But on this occasion I applaud their actions in a sincere apology to the indgenous peoples of Australia.

I managed to watch a 2:30 min version of the speech on you tube, but some how it did not capture the entire imagination of Australia, being here in Siberia on such a historic day for our country. I say country, because it is important that we acknowledge that our country is made up of many "nations" or ethnic groups. The word nation better reflects an ethnic group. Australia is therefore a Federal State made up of many ethnic groups.

I particularly enjoyed watching the "Welcome to Country" ceremony indigenous dance and music, to open Parliament. It is nice to be welcomed in Australia by the indigenous peoples. This is a wonderful sentiment, followed up by a sincere apology from parliament. It is now my hope and prayer that indigenous Australia forgive us for our sins of the past.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What is the true temple?

I've been learning more during our times of gathering as believers. Today we pulled out a scripture from Mark 11:12-20. Jesus often comes up with some mind blowing controversial statements. He was walking along with the disciples. Really this meant that he was hanging out with his mates, living day to day life, all the while teaching them in informal ways. This is a good model of discipleship that we can follow. Anyway, Jesus had a look at a fig tree that was producing no fruit. Jesus was unimpressed and said to the tree "May no one ever eat fruit from you again."
At first glance this seems disconnected from what happens next. Jesus and his mates turn up to the temple in Jerusalem. What follows is one of Jesus' most passionate moments in his life. They entered the outer courts of the temple and found a market place there. Jesus was furious. People were selling and buying. So Jesus turned the market place upside down. He turned the tables over and threw the money all over the ground. Then in his most passionate voice he declared to all present "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." It is often a good clue to see what motivates some one, by observing what makes that person get angry and passionate. Make no mistake, Jesus was angry. But he was very justified in his anger.
Often when looking at the example of Jesus turning the tables over in the temple, we deduce that he was upset because unholy activities were being carried out in a holy place. But there is a lot more going on than that. People were using the temple for profit instead of worship, yes this made Jesus upset. But Jesus was most passionately upset because the gentiles, the nations were prevented from coming to God. The outer courts were set aside as a place for seekers to come and pray and to find the God of the universe. Jesus had a heart for the nations. The religious Jews did not. They had a religious elitism that prevented gentiles from coming to God. This was what upset Jesus so passionately, that the Gentiles, the outsiders were being excluded.
In an examination of the law in the old testament it can be seen that God had two major purposes. One of these was to show that his people were not capable of keeping all the laws and were therefore sinful. The other was to encourage Israel to open up their land to the Gentiles, to make a way for the nations to come to worship God as well. There are many references to the nations in the law. Foreigners are often referred to as "aliens." The law was written for them too, and Israel was to invite people in this relationship with God
Originally God asked Moses to set up a tabernacle in a tent. This meant that God's Holy place could move about through out the land. The tabernacle was the place where God made himself present. Through out the Bible there is a progressive revelation of God's truth. Therefore there are many things that God did, as an allowance to the people of the day. People did not understand that God's presence could be everywhere, so he limited it to a holy place. It was through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross that we all have access to God's presence. So in the old testament system, God made an allowance, a concession of grace and made his presence known through the tabernacle. This however was not God's ultimate plan.
Later on in the history of Israel, during the time of the Judges, while Samuel was the Judge, the people of Israel, cried out for a King. This was not God's plan either. He wanted his people to see that He was their King. But the people had not learnt this lesson, and so he made another concession of grace and gave them an earthly King. The first of these Kings was Saul, then David, then Solomon and so on. During David's reign, he desired a temple. This was not God's original plan. But to show that he loved his people, he allowed them to worship him in one place, in a permanent building. David started this project, but it was his son Solomon that finished it, after David died. God was not opposed to the temple at the time, but it was not his final plan. He allowed this to happen, just as he allowed the Israelites to have a King.
These concepts are not that hard for us to understand as Christians. We know that God wanted to be the King of Israel. We learn when Jesus came that he is the King of the Jews, and in deed the King of all nations. We also learn that he is the High Priest above all priests. He is the Priestly King. Very few Christians will argue with these concepts. We also know that we can all come into God's presence after the curtain in the temple was torn. Think about that for a moment. The curtain demarcated the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could go. But now we can all go into the Holy of Holies. Does that not make us priests as well? So then, why do we need separately ordained priests in the modern body of Christ?

As I said earlier, Jesus liked to say controversial things, to stir things up. So I am going to take a leaf out of Jesus' book today and also say some controversial things. In Matthew 24 Jesus was again walking with his mates from the temple. His mates pointed out how beautiful the buildings were. After all, Herod had spent a lot of money on the temple, and surely God wanted a beautiful building to live in, where we can worship him. It seems like they didn't really know their Bible that well, and did not realise that the temple was an earlier concession, that Jesus had come to do away with. Jesus pointed out to his mates " 'Struth, I tell ya, not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down." Whoah! What did you just say Jesus? This temple will be destroyed? This temple is not important? Jesus was pointing out that the temple was not important to him. So then why do we bother to spend so much wasted money on Christian temples today?
The curtain in the temple was torn at Jesus' death. The temple system was done away with. It was replaced. Yes it is true, that in the early church, in Jerusalem that the believers would pray in the temple, and also meet in their homes. This was their tradition, their culture, what they knew. It is also true, that they hung around Jerusalem too long and were slow in being obedient to take the gospel to all nations. By 70 AD, the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, just as Jesus had prophesied. The end of the spiritual significance of the physical Israel ceased at Jesus' death and resurrection in 33 AD. The physical evidence of this came in 70 AD. The earthly Israel had been replaced in God's plan by a spiritual Israel, the Body of Christ, the world wide church. (Romans 11). This was the end of Israel. The Israel of today is the not the real thing. Yes of course God still loves the Jews, but he has a new Israel, the old one is done away with.
Back to the temple again in Mark 11. Jesus turned the tables over in the temple. He saw no fruit there. Just as he told the fig tree it would produce no more fruit, he pronounced the same of the temple. In verse 21 of Mark 11, the fig tree is withered. The story of the traders in the temple is sandwiched in between the story of the fig tree. This gives the story a bit more punch. Jesus directly tells the fig tree to wither, and more subtly says that the temple will wither. Of course in Matthew 24 he prophesies its withering.
After AD 70, the temple was no more and the believers were scattered. They were forced to meet in homes. The early church in the first few centuries almost exclusively met in homes. The early Jewish believers had their temples and synagogues. The Gentile believers were hardly going to worship Jesus in their pagan temples, so they worshipped in their homes. This is ok, though, Jesus did away with the temple. Again, why do we waste money on Christian temples today?

Jesus replaced the building with something more radical. With us. With our physical bodies. "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) As believers in Christ, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, not a building.
Within a few centuries though, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, people began to revert to the buildings, the physical temples. This was human nature, not God's plan. People also reverted to having separate ordained priests to mediate before God. Another thing that is not in God's plan. They copied large portions of the old testament system. This was movement backwards, to before the cross. Oops, what a big mistake. The post Constantine church, voluntarily gave up freedoms that Jesus had died for. And today, so many of us still voluntarily give up these freedoms.

A colleague of mine from Moscow has decided to convert to the Orthodox church. He and his wife are doing this through the Antiochian Orthodox church in America, before they return to Moscow. Don't get me wrong I do believe that the Orthodox church is part of the Body of Christ, but I also think they have made some harsh judgements and big mistakes. I have some other Antiochian Orthodox friends in Saskatchewan. A few years back my wife and I went a long to an Orthodox service with our friends. We were denied Holy Communion because we were not Orthodox believers. But I am a Christian. I confess Christ crucified and resurrected. I have been baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Why was I denied communion? Because of religious elitism. An elitism that says that only the Orthodox church is right and the rest are not. I was hurt by this experience. I reached out in unity and was slapped in the face. My colleague from Moscow has informed me that he will no longer have communion in a protestant church. He is effectively breaking fellowship with me. This is religious snobbery. This is the exact thing that upset Jesus in the temple. The five Orthodox churches of the Roman Empire- Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople and Rome committed a grave error when they reintroduced the temple system. The protestant reformation went a long way to dismantling this system, but there is stil further to go in realising the system that God wants in place.
There is a huge glaring weakness with the bricks and mortar temple system. It encourages the notion that the church building is a holy place, and that you must be holy to come into it. This is wrong for so many reasons, not least because it often keeps non-believers away. It strongly implies that if you have to be holy to come into the temple, or church building, that you do not have to be holy on the outside of the temple or church building. This creates a very unhealthy dichotomy, where Christians do not live holy lives all of the time. We are encouraged by Peter in his first letter to live holy lives that others may see our good doing and glorify God. Peter says this, just after he finishes explaining that we are all priests in God's kingdom and Jesus is our high priest. Again, why do we build buildings and act like they are holy places, and why do we employ others to be priests, when we are supposed to be them ourselves?
It is a far higher calling to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, than to simply walk into a building. We are supposed to be holy all of the time, not just on Sundays! Whoah, This is what God asks of us. We are his temple, and we are holy and called to be holy.

Isaiah prophesied that God had set apart for himself priests from all nations. At the time, the priests were only supposed to come from the tribe of Levi, not even the other Israelite tribes, let alone from other nations! What faith Isaiah must have had to say something so controversial. Revelation is progressive in the Bible. This was already stretching it as far as what the Israelites could understand. Peter takes it a lot further than Isaiah when he says that we are all priests. Isaiah was controversial. Jesus was controversial. Today the church has slipped back into an earthly system of physical temples and priests. These are called churches and pastors. This is so far from God's plan. He wants to do away with these barriers. We are all priests and we are all temples. To live this way will require some radical changes for the church. Many will be opposed to it, because it will upset their financial system of the worldly church. Are you opposed to the system that God desire us to be a part of? I would love to hear your comments.