Toorak Uniting Church

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Olympic Faith

Isaiah 2: 1 – 5   Matthew 15: 12 – 14, 21 – 28   Romans 11: 1 – 6, 29 – 32
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
17 August 2008

The ideals of peace and harmony, of the nations coming together transforming their weapons of death and destruction into some-thing more constructive and peace promoting is a lot older than the modern olympic games, and far more universal. With the vi-sions of Isaiah a point in case, going back to the 8th century BC.

Sadly the dream, the vision is hard to live out, as we have seen this week with the wonderful atmosphere and good sport person-ship of the olympics showing alongside the pictures of war and destruction from Georgia. And as, even before the games began, stories of some of the harsh measures taken by the Chinese gov-ernment to ensure the games and Beijing would at least present flawless getting out in the western press.

In this world the idea of peace and harmony, of beauty and per-fection is something to reach for, to extend oneself towards, but, so it appears, not something that is easily attained completely.
At the same time: Great things are made possible where people let that vision inspire them, where they extend themselves as far as they can in order to attain it.

There was this judoka from Sydney this week competing for bronze. She has a child that needs feeding through the stomach 28 times a day. One can only guess how one has been connected to the other. The Judo providing a release for the stress she has to deal with in her personal life on a day to day basis? Or has she been able to deal with life threw at her because of the skills she learned competing as a judoka from early on in her life? There was the gymnast competing for gold with a child suffering with leukemia. She moved from the Ukraine to Germany to get proper medical treatment for her child, a dream made possible because of her ability in gymnastics. How is her resilience in life and in her sports related? And then there is Michael Phelps of course, win-ning gold medal after gold medal who suffered from ADHD as a child. Reaching for an ideal, extending himself beyond his and his parents wildest dreams. All of the lives of these sporting heroes taking shape, their frustration channeled into something positive, their energy transferred into something they could probably only dream of when they started out.

Faith is like that. In the middle of a world where business goes on as usual, where war breaks out and people suffer, we have this dream, this vision to extend ourselves towards. And we are asked to put all our energy into, channel all our frustration and energy towards, applying ourselves, dedicating everything we’ve got, positive or negative, and use it to reach for this goal, this vision. And we are called to do that together, in community.

The apostle Paul already likened faith to an olympic race. A race of applying and extending oneself, of giving it all we have got. With the people on the ground as important as those who make it into the limelight. The mums and dads that did the driving, the coaches, the friends, anybody who helped those competitors grow and evolve into the people they are now are as important for the realising of the dream than those who go out and compete. Results, the dream coming true is a community effort, where the holding on to each other is as important as the growing of one ex-ceptional talent into something that will draw that whole commu-nity together.

We have our champions in faith, we have exceptional people showing exceptional development and greatness in their journey of faith to look up to and be inspired by. People like that Judoka, like that gymnast, like Phelps. But more important than those he-roes is the community around them that makes it all possible, that carries them, supports them, helps them grow and evolve, so their growth and evolvement can in turn inspire, draw and evolve the faith of the community.

It is at communion where this all comes together. We remember the saints, the heroes of faith who draw us forward and encour-age us to extend ourselves, we remember the vision of love and peace and healing given by God and lived out by Christ, we reach for the ideal of brothers and sisters living together in harmony in the middle of a world and a church is still a faraway dream. We do it. We practice this dream, here, in the middle of all our despair at the world and our squables amongst each other. We share bread and wine, give each other the peace, extend ourselves for one hour a month to a reality that is not yet there but to which we are reaching out, with all our heart, with all our soul. Longing for a world where all will be whole, all will be peace. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2008

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