sermon was preached
Readings: 1 Cor 9:24-27, Mk. 10:13-16
who competes in the games goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last;
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Cor 9:25)
Isthmian Games were second only
in ancient Greece to the Olympics –
and held on a site on about a dozen miles from Corinth.
Once every two years a great city of tents
would be set up by those visiting and competing in the games.
I imagine a sort of Glastonbury Festival without the mud.
himself was in Corinth
at the time of the games in the Spring of 51 CE –
He would almost certainly have been in the crowd –
and, not being one to miss an opportunity,
I guess he probably took along his soap box to harangue the crowds.
citizens of ancient Corinth –
like the citizens of Turin this weekend –
would have understood all about the races and the victory ceremonies.
The winner of a race received a wreath of wilted celery.
Don’t ask why – except I suppose unwilted celery
wouldn’t plat into a wreath very easily – but wilted celery it was.
to the Corinthian Christians –
You’ve seen the effort, the training, the discipline,
these guys put into running for a wreath of wilted celery –
how much more you should be striving for an eternal heavenly crown!!
the interviews with the winning skiers
at the winter Olympics this weekend – breathless they say
“This medal was worth all the hours and hours
of training and practice and dedication….
The tasks we face as Christians are in their way
far more demanding and significant
than being involved in an Olympic final
We are called to bring love and light and peace and justice into the world –
and proclaim God’s offer of eternal life for all his children.
that some Christians seem to assume
that all this can be done casually
and without discipline, training or preparation!!
Last week we were hearing how many Moslems
learn by heart the whole of the Quran
On Education Sunday maybe we as Christians need
not only to thank God for our education,
but also commit ourselves to more serious educational endeavour -
not perhaps learning by rote,
but putting similar time into the study of our faith and our scripture.
Paul says – work and train hard to win the prize.
course (and here the race analogy might be a bit misleading)
our aim is not to defeat others and deprive them of victory –
but to share the prize with them.
I remember hearing of a group of children
who attended a special school –
all had severely challenging conditions
which limited their mobility and physical co-ordination.
The school decided to hold a sports day –
including a set of carefully crafted activities
to challenge and encourage such physical attributes
as the pupils possessed.
One race was the 60 metres -
not so much a sprint as a feat of endurance
for a group of determined youngsters
for whom even walking unaided, let alone running,
was a real challenge.
Half a dozen contestants were well matched and pretty even
when finally they had covered about 50 of the 60 yards.
Then suddenly one child stumbled and fell.
The crowd of parents and others stopped cheering and groaned.
At once the other five contestants stopped, turned,
and with great difficulty hauled their companion to his feet
and triumphantly all crossed the line together.
To enter the Kingdom of Heaven is to be like a child….
Christians, as educators, as human beings,
our calling is to help others to attain their full humanity –
not to beat them in the race but to share with them the prize.
Thanks to Debbie for her reflection –
Debbie is of course fresh from her triumph last night
as the Irish lav attendant in the Mint Pantomime “Jack and the beanstalk”.
It was – as you might expect of the Mint –
a fairly eco friendly and PC panto.
At the end there is a prize giving,
and everyone was offered a prize –
There is even a prize for baddie John Wiseman
who has been peddling GM beanstalks,
but promises to mend his ways.
And the Giant is not killed
but is reluctantly persuaded to give up eating meat –
or at least children –
and is rewarded with a prize of fairly traded chocolate.
The Isthmian Games, like the Olympic Games had a relay
Each team passed on not a baton but a flaming torch
(a precursor of the modern Olympic ritual) –
the final runner of the winning team
lighting the flame of the altar in the stadium.
The Greeks had a saying originating from the games -
"Let those who have the light pass it on."
If like me
you have ever dropped the baton in a Sports Day relay,
you will know that sense not just of failing yourself but failing others.
you have received the benefits of education ––
you will know the responsibility you have to those
who went before and those who come after you –
to pass on the learning and discernment and wisdom.
you have received the Gospel from family or friends
you will understand the responsibility you have
to those who went before and those still before you,
for generations still to come –
to pass on the light of the Gospel.
generation of Christians runs the race –
and we recall the great succession in which we run –
and with them look to our goal.
Archbishop William Laud went to the scaffold on Tower Hill in 1645
As was the tradition of the day
he preached a sermon before being executed.
His text came from the 12th Chapter of Hebrews –
“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us….”
I have now come, he said, to the end of my race,
and here I find the cross.”
· Let us run the race to our life’s end, whatever that end may be
· Let us train hard so that we may give mind body and soul to God’s work
· Let us pick up those who fall in the race and help them on
· Let us carry the torch for those who have yet to begin their race
· Let us dare to hope that we may wear the victor’s crown
And more – let us dare to hope
that we share that crown with all God’s people everywhere.