As I write this, the XXXII Olympic Games have recently finished in Tokyo and the Paralympic Games are soon to start. Although being held in Tokyo meant that watching many of the events was a little harder this year, there has still been much to watch and enjoy. The abilities of the athletes, their dedication, and their perseverance is always something that I have greatly admired.
One of this year's stars was the British Skateboarder Sky Brown, who at only 13 came away with a bronze medal. It is almost impossible to imagine and comprehend the talent of someone who able to compete at such a high let, let alone come away with such a prize, at a such a young age.
In a football match, or even the Premier League, one bad spell, or one bad match, does not mean the end of everything and a team can pull themselves together and make a comeback, but in many of the Olympic sports, winning can often come down to one moment. It just takes a single misstep, a single fall, a single miscalculation of judgement and all can be lost. In the diving competition, one bad dive, means everything. All that training for four years, all that anticipation, rests on a knife-edge. To give your life to a sport where the difference between success and failure is so slight must require huge amounts of endurance, strength and resilience, as well as an awful lot of mental fitness and an ability to stay focused. This is why I am in awe of all those competing at the Olympics.
While the winner of the gold gets all the glory, it is important to remember that the vast majority come away without a medal of any colour. But that does not mean they have lost at all. Getting to the Olympics itself is a huge achievement - just think how amazing all these athletes are! When I'm watching the Olympics I like to see the faces of those runners and sportsmen and women who finish towards the end of the race - quite often they come across the line with a smile on their face, knowing that they have done the best that they can and have competed in something really special.
What else can anyone offer but themselves and their best?
In the Bible, St. Paul often evokes the image of the athlete in his description of the spiritual life. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, he writes 'Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.' (1 Cor 9:25) For Paul the training and dedication that athletes required to win their wreath was what people needed in their spiritual lives - a desire to dedicate their time to God, to practicing their faith, and to trying to become better people every day. Practice, they say, makes perfect; and in our spiritual lives we need to practice too, by praying, by talking with others, and by reading the Bible. That way, we too, will receive our own medals. Just as we can admire and be inspired by those who compete in the Olympics, we can be inspired by other Christians too, emulating those who have taught us and gone before us. Then, when our race comes to an end, we will be greeted by God and will receive our prize - a place in God's everlasting Kingdom.
Rev'd Stephen Burge
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.