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Saturday, 28 July 2012

London Olympics Opening - A Taste of Heaven?

Last night my wife and I stayed up until one in the morning to watch the London Olympics Opening Ceremony in its entirety on television. From the rural green and pleasant land of William Blake's poem Jerusalem to the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the "satanic mills" in the poem with its six furnace chimneys rising from the floor, to the onset of the swinging sixties, with Paul McCartney singing Come Together, followed by Hey Jude, Rowan Atkinson as the bumbling Mr Bean tapping at the single key as Vangelis' theme to the movie Chariots of Fire played on. Then the emphasis of the National Health Service, filling the arena with giant hospital beds each illuminated to give a spectacular sight with the acronym GOSH, as the young dancing patients at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children began to see their dreaded monsters of their nightmares come to life, only for the timely arrival of Mary Poppins to fly down from the sky with her open black umbrella to drive away the terrors. Even Her Royal Majesty the Queen dropped into the stadium from a helicopter hovering above, with the aid of a hesitating James Bond. Indeed, it really was the greatest show on Earth, carefully thought out and put together by Oscar winning director, Danny Boyle.

The chimneys of the "satanic mills" of Blake's Jerusalem rises from the floor of the Olympic Stadium.

Then, after the performance about Britain's history and culture, it was time to bring in the athletes in their national teams into the arena. Starting with Greece, from where the Olympics originated, each team entered the stadium in their country's name in alphabetical order. I was surprised at the number of nations I have not heard of, let alone knowing their geographical location! My heart went out to these small, almost obscure lands who can only send around four or five competitors to the Olympics, compared the the USA, for example, with several hundred. Finally, the greatest cheers went to Team Great Britain, being the hosts, were the last to enter, led by flag bearer Sir Chris Hoy.

Each team was led by a flag bearer representing their nation. How my heart was stirred to see all these different nations putting aside any dispute they may have between them in order to participate in the Games together. To see so many happy faces, smiling over the wonderful privilege to compete in such a tournament made me want to shed tears. Not tears of sorrow, but of joy. And behind each smile, behind every facial expression of the competitors was hiding a sense of nervousness. Every athlete in the stadium wanted to return home with a gold medal for both his or her country as well as for himself or herself. But everyone also knew that there were far, far fewer gold medals to go around than there were participants, but at least there were also two runner-up medals, silver and bronze. The competitor to be most pitied, in my mind, is the one who finishes fourth in the final.

Watching the Opening ceremony of the London Olympics warmed the cockles of my heart. But it has also brought into mind what it would be like in Heaven. Some time ago, a well-loved church member and devout Christian died of leukaemia without having a high number of years on his milometer. After the funeral, someone in the church had a kind of "vision" or picture of this fellow running as if in a race. The course twisted in turned, went uphill and down, was smooth in some places, had obstacles or was rough elsewhere, then suddenly, the path opened out to a vast stadium, every seating had a spectator who had ran the very same race himself, loudly cheering this guy as he sprinted towards the finish line. The entry into the stadium marked his physical death. In Heaven, the vast crowd of saints cheered him on as he completed the one lap. The thunder rose to high intensity as he crossed the finish line, into the arms of the Lord Jesus, who is to place a crown on his head.

The flag bearer of Team GB can be likened to the Lord Jesus Christ leading his saints home!

What a beautiful vision of electrifying joy! And furthermore, with the heavenly Olympics, there will be no Closing Ceremony to follow. The joy in Christ's victory over sin and death and our redemption will bring everlasting celebration and joy. As one song goes, we will praise God for a thousand years, then for evermore.

Paul the apostle was not unfamiliar with the Greek Olympics. He also used it as a model for Christian living. To the Philippian church, he gave this testimony:

I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 3:14.

And to the Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 12:1.

This brings us back to the heavenly stadium as well as the Olympic stadium in London, where athletes will compete for the prize of a gold medal, not only to the packed grandstand of spectators, but to the world at large through television.

Today I watched the men's road cycling race, covering a distance of 156 miles 250 km. I watched with excited emotion the line of cyclists pedalling with an all-out determination to win the race. Months, maybe years of hard, determined training had prepared them for this very event, the highlight of their lives. I watched as each rider craned his neck as forward as possible, pushing as hard as their energy permit on the pedals. Nothing got in their way because no one would dare get in the way. The same with the swimming event this evening. Each competitor had the gold medal in his sight, and no one would dare get in the way or try to slow them down.

We Christians should be like that. We have a heavenly crown in our sight. It is the prize worthy of our determination to live as holy as our spirits are capable of. If the cyclist and the swimmers won't allow anyone or anything to hinder them, so we should be the same against any potential adversary. And we have an enemy who, given the chance, would cause us to crash, just as one of the riders crashed into the barrier in today's race. With this in mind, James wrote an instruction for us -by drawing close to God, God will draw close to us, and by submitting to him, the devil will flee. (James 4:7-8.) I don't want to trip up any reader here. I'm not talking about salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God given to all who believe, through grace. In this context, I'm talking about rewards. In the Olympics, the gold medal is not given to every competitor. Instead it is given to the one who finished first, the result of good training, determination and the ability to win. We can do the same by allowing ourselves to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is given to all believers.

The next two weeks the London Olympics will dominate the Media. But it will all end with the closing ceremony. We are in a race that once finished, the celebration will go on forever.


  1. Nicely put,
    The one difference is that in the Lord there is no competing against one another and we can all be winners, the prize being eternal life.
    God bless

  2. It was awesome! Thanks for sharing it here. You are invited to follow my blogs.

  3. Wonderful analogy, Frank! If we live our lives remembering the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on, and what it will be like to hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," it should encourage us to keep our eyes on the Prize and to finish the race.
    Thanks for the great post, and God bless,

  4. Another gold medal for you Frank! I really enjoyed reading that post and needed to hear its message; oh how easily we can get entangled in sin. We all need to hold onto the Lord and His rewards!

  5. Isn't it amazing how many will put out so much effort for such a relatively unimportant prize. The day after the event, people are already planning to out do the winner and most people won't remember who won after a week or two.

    As a Christian. our reward is permanent.

  6. Frank, a fantastic blog, I really enjoyed reading this. I was also thinking about the noise made by the crowds singing the national anthem! Imagine the noise when we praise King Jesus in heaven, the amazing, moving renditions of God save the Queen, will be but a hushed tune compared to the anthems in Glory!!

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