I am an Olympics fan. Every time the Olympics roll around every two years, I spend large amounts of time watching as many events as possible. While I cannot binge-watch every single moment of the games, I spend a lot of time glued to the television wondering which athletes are going to do their best, overcome past performance, and take home a medal or two.
Sometimes, I appreciate the background stories about the athletes so I remember they are human too and bring much into their athletic career. I wonder how many of you are watching the games this year. Do you only pull for one team during the competition or do you celebrate the accomplishments of all who qualified for this test of athletic ability? How do you feel when you see pictures of the different athletes building relationships with one another throughout the games?
This year, I am particularly moved by the determination of a group of refugees who?ve come together to compete as a team and show the world that hope exists. At the time I?m writing this, I have not yet seen any of these determined folks compete yet, though I anticipate cheering like mad when they do. What would it take, I wonder, for all of us to celebrate the gifts and talents of all people, not matter their country of origin or any other factor that we human beings use to distinguish ourselves from one another? How do we find hope in the midst of the world?s turmoil and set aside our differences for a few short weeks to cheer on the international competitors?
As I continue to reflect on what I?m learning from the Olympic Games this year, I?m realizing that there is much work for me to do to overcome differences and build relationships of love in my congregation, community, and the greater world around me. If athletes and children can offer each other friendship, acceptance, and congratulations for deeds well done, then so can we.
Over and over again, the video footage and pictures from the games offer a glimpse of what it means when you?re willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of another, build bridges across divides between warring countries, and show good sportsmanship to everyone they encounter.
How are you showing love to God and to your neighbor? What lessons are you learning about love, justice, compassion, mercy, and hope from these games and other events where differences are overcome in a multitude of ways? In what ways do you celebrate the accomplishments of other people and/or show solidarity to those who are hurting?
However you feel about this athletic competition and the need for love in this world, I hope you are finding ways every day to offer compassion, empathy, hope, love, justice, and mercy wherever you go. Loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves requires the strength, peace, faith, and acceptance that only God can give. Thanks be to God. Amen.