Well done, Tommy!

So Ireland have done it! It was such an emotionally draining two hours. The result was in doubt right up to the last kick of the match, and Paddy Wallace, who gave away the last penalty which Stephen Jones only marginally failed to convert, must be the happiest man in the world tonight. 61 years on, Ireland have done the Grand Slam, and are Triple Crown and 6 Nations Champions.

A major part of the success was due to Tommy Bowe who scored a majestic try against Wales. But for me the key moment of the whole tournament was his try-saving tackle against Scotland. It must put him in serious contention for a place in the Lions team for this summer

Calvin men

The speakers at the Calvin@500 conference were Rev Dr David McKay, minister of Shaftesbury Square Reformed Presbyterian Church, Rev Gareth Burke, minister of Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Rev Robert McCollum, minister of Lisburn Reformed Presbyterian Church, and myself.

Calvin @ 500

John Calvin

I am speaking tomorrow at a conference hosted by my Reformed Presbyterian colleagues to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Genevan reformer, John Calvin. The main purpose of the conference is to explode some of the myths surrounding Calvin and my particular task is to look at Calvin’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The claim of our Pentecostal and charismatic brothers and sisters is that the Holy Spirit has largely been ignored by conservative, reformed churches, and that it is only in the 20th century, through the theology and worship of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches that the “forgotten” Third Person of the Trinity has been re-discovered by the church. The truth is that John Calvin has correctly been identified as “the theologian of the Holy Spirit” and that his theology gives a full and central role to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I propose to examine Calvin’s emphasis on the work of Holy Spirit in terms of our union with Christ, the doctrine of assurance, the authority of Scripture and the sacraments.

Click here to read my address given at the conference.

The Manse

It’s where I live, and this past week, since St Patrick turned up the warm side of the stone, it has been delightful to be outside and to see all the signs of Spring. Bob, the gardener, has been busy getting everything in shape as he has scarrified the lawn, trimmed the edges, cut the grass, and given the whole place a tidy-up. The manse was built in 1855. Monkey puzzle trees were a “must have” in every 19th century garden, and this one was no exception.

On the other side of the rather brown beech hedge on the left lies “the orchard”. In a previous generation, the apples in this County Armagh garden provided an additional income for the incumbent living in the manse. All the apple trees in the garden, except one, are now gone. But this past autumn that one tree provided more than enough fruit for the occupants of the manse.

The game with a punch

As the capable coach of Wales, Warren Gatland has begun the psychological battle for the Wales-Ireland encounter in the Six Nations next Saturday by announcing that the Irish and Welsh rugby players don’t like each other, some seasoned observers are wondering, “So what’s new?” The 1914 showdown in Belfast was often referred to as the toughest game ever in which several members of the Irish and Welsh packs exchanged punches off the ball and out of sight of the referee. The Welsh pack that year was led by the Rev Alban Davies!

In 1969 Wales entertained Ireland at Cardiff when the visitors, like this year, were seeking the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown. Some of us still remember the Welsh captain, Brian Price, flattening Ireland’s pack leader, Noel Murphy with a perfect right upper-cut which was seen by the television audience but seemed to be strangely invisible to the referee. Three Irish forwards, Noel Murphy, Ken Kennedy and Jimmy Davidson needed attention during the game and each finished the match suffering from concussion. At one stage Tom Kiernan, Ireland’s captain, threatened to take his team off the field. Wales eventually won 24-11 after having trailed for much of the first half.

So if Gavin Henson and Brian O’Driscoll don’t like each other, we are not surprised. I think the animosity Gatland describes is not as real as he suggests and is just part of his Antipodean way of increasing the tension. I hope that Ireland will be up to the challenge and will, if necessary, “get their retaliation in first”. Could this be Ireland’s year? Our hearts scream “Yes” but our heads tell us that it will be incredibly tough. C’mon Ireland!