Tuesday, 26 June 2012

We are in a rich season of sport at the moment: Euro 2012, Wimbledon and The Olympic Games, not to mention the cricket and the Tour de France. It seems to me that there is something almost religious about sport. Think of the ways that sporting values parallel spiritual values: the idea of dedication, of sacrifice, of team spirit, of challenge and endeavour, of achieving (or scoring) a goal, of the encouragement of the spectators, and of the joy of winning.

The writer to the Hebrews had the Olympic stadium in mind when he wrote ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…’ And St Paul also thought in those terms when, near the end of life, in prison and in chains, he wrote to Timothy: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…’

The spirit of the Olympics is one which encourages a purity of purpose. Athletes don’t compete for money, but for the glory of winning. It’s sad, therefore, when the Games are sometimes highjacked for political purposes, because there is something noble about dedicated athlete’s lifestyle. there is something noble about playing as a team – in fact it could be a good description of the church: each person playing their part, some at the front, some at the back, those who attack, those who defend, those who can pass and those who can score. it’s been good to see how the England football team seemed to play so well together in the recent Championship, and how the team spirit did so much to give them a boost. And Roy Hodgson said how important the fans were in encouraging the team.

St Paul also wrote to Timothy, ‘Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.’ If we are at all inspired by the Olympics perhaps we could consider how our own spiritual lives could be more disciplined, how we can get involved in the ‘game’ of being the church, and what we can do to be winners that bring glory to Jesus, the ‘captain of our salvation’ (Hebrews 2:10 KJV), and to God himself.