15 August 2012

My Favourite Moment of the Games

by Dr Mark Keown

The Olympics were amazing. For one who has dabbled in rowing, all those rowing medals were amazing. The Kiwis acquitted themselves well. It all culminated with Valerie Adam’s belated win, albeit in disappointing circumstances. I am so glad Valerie won a gold, because all the others were won sitting down – it shows that Kiwis can walk, run and throw, and aren’t just the birds that are good at lounging around.

More broadly, London did a brilliant job. Thank the Lord there was no terrorist attacks! In fact, the only thing that resembled a moment of ‘terror’ was a bunch of Kiwis getting a bit excited and blowing up a BBQ; classic! It is also fantastic to see the athletic capacity of people across all those amazing sports – one reflection of our image bearing. We are truly ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ Even more broadly, isn’t it great to see people of almost every shade and culture from across God’s world gathering together in peace and unity? It gives us a taste of God’s ultimate dream we read of in Revelation.

One of the things that stood out to me was the many displays of overt religiosity by athletes. While many hate them as an intrusion, I love them. Especially for us in the ‘secular’ west where religion is tolerated in its place, such acts show that faith is alive and well in our world. It shows that faith cannot and won’t be banished to the margins. Many, especially Africans, were seen genuflecting. I really like this feature of Catholicism, the sign of the cross is a beautiful expression of devotion. I should start using it. Many when interviewed gave tributes to God for their achievements. Of course we can get critical and say that few if any gave glory to God for their abject failures – ‘I want to thank God that I was completely knackered on the day and did so poorly.’ But, it is still great to see people honouring God for his part in their achievements.

I especially enjoyed our 1500m runner Lucy Van Dalen’s genuine comments about her relationship with God. I know from my daughter Annie, who has been at the college (Stonybrook) running with Lucy in the USA, that Lucy has a genuine and deep relationship with God. Annie, Lucy, her sister Holly, and another Kiwi girl Olivia Burne, are all great athletes and met for Bible study and went to church together. Like Nick Willis and others, they all have that Chariots of Fire, when I run God smiles, kind of ethos.

My favourite moment in this regard was Meseret Dafar winning the 5000m. After she crossed the line after a close and surprising victory over more fancied runners in the field and full of deep emotion, she pulled out of her bib a picture of Mary and Jesus. While some Protestants might feel a little uncomfortable, this moment can only be described as authentic worship. Who can deny her deep and genuine faith in God? I found myself welling up as I watched this glorious and moving moment.

May we demonstrate that same sense of devotion as we set about our work. And when we have moments of great achievement, may we remember to give God the glory. And when things go bad, let’s also glorify God, for he is with us in the struggle. The world may not see as it does when the likes of Meseret Dafar and Lucy Van Dalen glorify God before the TV cameras, but God sees, and that’s all that matters.

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