Thursday, August 07, 2008

Olympic Christians

As I prepare my sermon on Matthew 13:44-46 (the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price), my mind keeps getting drawn to the Olympics. In Beijing, athletes from around the world will gather to push themselves to their limits in order to compete for their country, and bring home the gold. Many competitors have been training for this one event for their whole lives, working with single-minded passion and determination to make the cut, make their country's team, and win it all. The gold medal for these people is their pearl of great price, something they've sacrificed for and worked for in an effort to attain.

What is our pearl of great price? What drives and motivates us? Many would say our families, perhaps our jobs or success. But what about the kingdom? How many of us would be willing to sacrifice like that for the kingdom of God - to make God's dream for this world become a reality? Do any of us have that single-minded devotion that drives and compels us to serve God and neighbor with heart, soul, mind, and strength?

But I think that there's more than just this focused drive to achieve that spurs the Olympic athletes on toward winning the prize. There's a love of the sport involved. They enjoy what they do because it brings satisfaction and joy. There's beauty to it as well that motivates their efforts to achieve.

Pearls in ancient Palestine were appreciated not just for their value, but also for their beauty. It's not just that we are driven by need or calling to bring forth God's dream for the world, but that there is something inherently beautiful in it; that God seeks human efforts - as broken and messed up as we are - to create a world characterized by joy, peace, mercy, justice, and love. There is beauty in touching and transforming the life of another, in witnessing two old friends having coffee together, a child playing with her friends, or a man stopping to talk with a homeless person. There's beauty in the small acts that show how God's dream is working to make all things new.

So there is the value of the kingdom - something we are called to invest ourselves in fully, orienting our lives completely around God and neighbor; and something deeply beautiful in being able to witness to and participate in God's designs for creation.

I think we're called to be Olympic Christians - striving and training and giving all we have so that God's dream for the world can come true and appreciating the beautiful ways God works in us and in others to make this a reality.

Both strands are probably too much for one sermon, but we'll see what happens.

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