OUR OLYMPIC JOURNEY

Some of you may have noticed I took the summer off of writing the blog.  It was a selfish decision but I needed a mental break.  “Think, think think, that’s all I ever do.” – Winnie the Pooh.  I tried to catch up on some reading and didn’t even succeed in that.  I guess those comic books will have to wait for next summer.  It doesn’t really matter because Archie never ages and it looks like he will never graduate from High School.  I just can’t figure out what he’s sees in Veronica.  Betty is such a better person on so many levels but he is forever setting himself up for heartbreak with that trust-fund rich girl.  Maybe he’ll get it one day.  I’ll keep you posted.

One thing I did manage to do this summer was watch the London 2012 Olympics.  It is much more satisfying because there is always a clear winner.  Well, except maybe this year.  This was the first Olympics in history where athletes were expelled from the games for… not trying to win.  The most overt of these were the 4 women’s badminton teams.  Two from Korea, one from China and one from Indonesia.  Due to a somewhat flawed schedule as to which team faced which team in the round robin, all 4 teams tried to actually lose their matches in order to face easier opponents later on.  The result was perhaps the worst badminton ever seen at a world class event.  They were deliberately missing their serves, hitting the bird into the net or missing shots entirely.  They weren’t fooling anyone.  The fans started to boo and the commentators were incredulous.   The IOC stepped up and disqualified all eight players for ‘failure to give best efforts to win’.  Incredibly the world’s top teams were gone allowing lesser teams to medal.  Canada finished just out of the medals in 4th.

There is a far greater biblical connection to the Olympics than most people know.  They were very much a part of the culture of the day in the time of Jesus and His disciples.  The Ancient Olympics were held every year in Athens from 776 BC to AD 394.  In those days only men could compete and only men could spectate.  It may have had something to do with that fact that they competed completely naked.  Today, only women’s beach volleyball compete naked (at least mostly).  It’s a little bizarre actually…

In 1 Corinthians 9 the Apostle Paul makes reference to the ancient games as a metaphor for the Christian walk.  “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a a way that you may obtain it.”  If you read this passage carefully, and in context, you realize that we are all in the race whether we like it or not.  And unlike the Asian badminton players, Paul admonishes us to give it our best effort to win.  He does not say you are going to win every race.  He merely says to run in such a way that you might.  Sports psychologists will tell you that if you cannot see yourself winning, then you never will.

My favourite story of the London 2012 games is that of fellow Winnipeger Clara Hughes (no relation).  She is one of only 5 athletes in history to medal in both the summer and winter games (cycling and speed skating).  After the 2004 Olympics she retired from cycling.  She was  a TV commentator for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  And then, incredibly, just shy of her 40th birthday she comes out of retirement to compete again in London.  (She was still speed skaking and had won a bronze in Vancouver in 2010)  Her best finish in London was an impressive 5th place.  Did she actually believe that her 40 year old body was going to win against a whole new crop of 20 year olds?  The answer is; yes.  That in my opinion is what makes her a true Olympian.  She embodies the true spirit of the Olympics and that is the spirit that Paul claims should also be in us as believers.

The motto of the modern Olympics is Citius, Altius, Fortius; Latin for faster, higher, stronger. This to me is exactly what Paul was talking about.  On our own spiritual journey we need to strive to be faster, higher and stronger.

Faster; in that we should learn to live life to the fullest and not waste a single moment. Everyone of us will from time to time have important opportunities knock on our door.  We should be waiting and ready to seize the day.  Life is way too short to be sitting in front of the TV watching Keeping Up with the Kardasians, Jersey Shore or any other so called reality show out there.  Instead of watching people live their lives on TV, maybe we should be out living our own life… just a thought.

Higher: because we need to find a higher cause for which to live our life.  Everyone of us is called to a higher purpose or as I like to call it a purpose greater than ourselves.  Nothing is more unsatisfying than living only for our own desires.  Just months before Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated he was preaching in his church.  He said,  “I have won many awards, but none of them matter to me, not the Nobel peace prize or any of the 100’s of others.  The only thing that will matter is, did I feed the poor, did I clothe the naked, did I care for others, did I leave this world a better place.”  That is the only question any of us should ask at the end of our life.  The higher purpose IS leaving our world a better place than when we found it.

Stronger; because inner strength is a far greater virtue than physical strength.   After Bruce Jenner (who incidentally is married to Kris Kardashian) won the Decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Olympics he made a startling statement.  “I have always seen myself as an average athlete, but I honestly believe I was mentally tougher than my opponents, that is why I won the gold.”   The Christian walk (race) is not always an easy one.  We see many that when they are faced with even the slightest adversity fold like cheap lawn chairs. Paul goes on to say that these athletes “discipline themselves in all things to win a temporal prize”.   We have all of eternity at stake, let’s run the race with the same conviction and determination.  Stay tuned for my sermon The Olympic Journey coming to a TV near you in a week or two.

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