I had to miss the current Olympic’s Opening Ceremonies because of church meetings in Dallas over the weekend. But I know what happened. I’ve seen them before.
Sure it drags on. Sure there are usually technical difficulties. Sure we can debate the uniform choices.
But what really captures the world’s attention is the pageantry of it all. The host country pulls out all the stops in order to tell its story. It wants to weave together the sights and sounds of its country and its history in a compelling way because everyone’s attention is focused right then and there.
I think that’s important to us. That moment matters. That story well told. A story embedded into the people, yet shared with outsiders. It’s a celebration, but I think in the end it rings a little hollow. At the end, when you peel back the layers and get to the heart of the matter – we’re celebrating human achievement.
Don’t get me wrong – they’re great stories. Stories of hard work and bad luck and overcoming adversity and plucky resistance. There are the old and young, and long-timers and first-timers. They’re all beating another score, or setting a record. The difference between first and fourth can be split seconds or a judges decision made in a few moments. It can be heartbreaking and exhilarating. We all get into it, the skiing and the shooting and the skating and the snowboarding.
I don’t want to be a sourpuss about it all. It really is cool to watch curling once every four years. I like it. I’m not against it at all.
But it’s also not celebrating anything really transcendent. Human achievement isn’t enough. Medal counts can’t carry us through. NBC narratives make a difference, but the stories always end with achievement or non-achievement. I want stories of rescue. I want nations of rescue. I want people of rescue. I want to celebrate more, not less. I want our church to celebrate with as much (well, in proportion) vigor and preparation, anticipation and ability. I want our worship to be not about human achievement, though I do find our lives and stories filled with dignity, interest and drama. It’s even more interesting and dramatic to see redemption worked out, and to tell the story of a chosen people, chosen despite their ruin, loved despite their rebellion and forgiven despite their debts.