With great excitement we have followed the cross-country journey of the Olympic torch, the longest domestic trek of the torch in Olympic history. By the time it reaches its destination in Vancouver, it will have passed through 1,000 communities across Canada.
In every place there have been great crowds on hand. The very first sight of the torch has moved young and old alike to erupt with cheers of delight and national pride in hosting these ancient games. When the torch finally touches the great cauldron erected in Vancouver, the 2010 Winter Olympics will begin.
For a couple of weeks, we will all be caught up in watching these games, following with particular interest one sport or another. We will be part of a great global audience cheering on the athletes who have trained for years. Sometimes we will be sitting in poised silence, sometimes standing in absolute dismay, and sometimes jumping in ecstatic joy. As the flags go up and the medals are presented, we are all moved with pride in the athletes.
Is it any wonder that the New Testament writers, familiar as they were with the ancient Olympic Games, used images associated with them to encourage the followers of Christ to be steadfast in their faith? Here are a couple:
“Athletes exercise self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-25).
“I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
In a similar manner, John Samuel Bewley Monsel wrote these words:
“Run the straight race, through God’s good grace;
Lift up thine eyes and seek his face.
Life with its path before us lies;
Christ is the way and Christ the prize.” (Hymn 503, Common Praise)
In the spirit of the Olympics, let us run the race that is set before us, let us cheer one another on, and let us give thanks for “that great cloud of witnesses by whom we are surrounded.” (Hebrews 12: 1)
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.