March 1, 2021

A blog about the game they play in heaven and the bloke in charge, Jesus.

Who am I?

Davo Gunning is the Lead Pastor of Adelaide Presbyterian Church. He is also a rugby referee with the South Australian Rugby Union Referees Association.

I consider myself to be a growing healthy disciple of Jesus.

I am an evangelical (not the Donald Trump kind) who is passionate about sharing Jesus with the next generation.

I am reformed. I am deeply committed to the principles established in the reformation by the heroes of faith, particularly Calvin, Zwingli and Luther. Rediscovering the bible as the Word of God, was perhaps the single greatest achievement of their time.

There certainly was a reformation. But to describe it in the past tense, waters down the power of the gospel, and the ever present relevance to every age. So i would prefer to refer to myself as reforming, rather than reformed. I have not finished the race, but will continue to run committed to the Word of God.

I love rugby and am committed to ‘the game they play in heaven’. Whilst the theology of the statement is not entirely true, it is one of the closest things we have on earth.

I’ve been described by some as;

An elite referee trapped inside the body of a tight head prop

which is probably fair but my love for the game is deeply rooted in decades of participation first as a player, then as a referee (following a serious neck injury). In many ways i was driven to the whistle through injury, but given my curiosity for the laws and intricacies of the game, the injury probably just accelerated the inevitable.

I would describe myself as a ‘Southern Hemisphere’ referee in both style and practice. Running rugby, open play and player management and are essential in my view of the game. Scores definitely shouldn’t be divisible by 3, and I’m not sure why we still bother having goalposts. Set piece should be a way of restarting the game and not the focus. And a beer with the players afterward should be the rule, not the exception.

There are two great reasons i love rugby ahead of all other sports; Contest and continuity.

The advantage Law in the World Rugby Law book 2019 sets a principle which trumps every other law;

If a team gains an advantage following an infringement by their opponents, the referee may allow play to continue in an effort to keep the game flowing.

The purpose of the law is to keep the game flowing. It is this philosophy which heavily influences what i (and many others) refer to as the concept of ‘material effect’. The principle the referee uses to determine when to blow the whistle, when to play advantage, Burt also when to let it go, move on and manage the player on the run.

One of the things that ignited my passion for rugby was how closely ‘material effect’ mimicked ‘biblical grace’. In many ways God’s patience with mankind, is a model for ‘good’ referees. The more i reflected on the similarities, the more i was convinced that a clear understanding of the gospel of Jesus actually made me a better rugby referee. It is this connection that birthed these explorations.

Rugby Union is just another (of innumerable) means of grace, given to mankind for the betterment of their souls, the growth of their love for God and others, and an opportunity to dwell in likeminded community.

God is good.

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