Dan's the Man


Its been quite a year so far for Dan Rooney. First his team (and they are HIS team... he owns them) the Pittsburgh Steelers, won an historic 7th Superbowl, then yesterday, as many had predicted, President Obama announced that Mr. Rooney was to be his nominee as Ambassador to Ireland.

Over the years he has invested heavily in peace, reconciliation and redevelopment programmes here in Northern Ireland, and I hope that in his time here as ambassador he will get the chance to see first hand the effect his investment has had on individuals and communities across this land.

Now (ready yourself for a colossal namedrop) I got to meet Dan last year on a visit to Heinz Stadium, the home of the Steelers (hence the photo... that's Mr. Ambassador on the left). I must say that given his position he was one of the most humble men I have ever encountered. He has eschewed the flight of the wealthy to large gated estates further out in Allegheny County and still lives in the family home in what is quite a run down area of downtown Pittsburgh. It's one of the closest houses to the football field, and he is rumoured to walk across to the stadium on match days and queue up with the ordinary fans. That may be an urban myth put about as a PR exercise, but I would believe it of him. And it is encouraging that the President should invite such an able, compassionate yet humble man to be his Ambassador. It certainly will project a different image of the US than is normal. He, and the community-orientated ethos of the Steelers as a whole, was so impressive, that he almost convinced me to shift my 30 year allegiance from the Chicago Bears... And had no qualms about buying my son a Steelers shirt (which he felt very smug about, subsequent to the Superbowl).

Mr Rooney's appointment set me thinking again of Paul's description of Christians as "Ambassadors of Christ" II Corinthians 5: 16-20. The humility that Mr Rooney exhibits may be a characteristic that we as Christians might do well to emulate. We may well be representatives of the King of Kings, but that doesn't mean we should be arrogant about our relationship with Christ when it comes to dealing with those who do not claim a relationship with him. After all he described himself as "humble in heart", and if we are to represent him authentically then that is what we should be. Anyway, arrogance is ultimately be self-defeating.

And what is the message committed to us as Christ's ambassadors? Reconciliation... Paul talks about it in terms of reconciliation with God in Christ, but the rest of scripture makes it clear that you cannot have reconciliation with God without reconciliation with other people.

So may both Dan Rooney and each of us who claim to be Christ's ambassadors do all we can to promote reconciliation in this island...

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