12:46 p.m. British Time, July 6th.

The whole nation holds its breath. The president of the International Olympic Committee opens the envelope presented to him on a silk pillow: “… The Games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the City of London.”

Trafalgar Square, where thousands have gathered, erupts in joy. Even Tony Blair admits to jigging around and hugging the person next to him.

The greatest show on earth. Coming to OUR city.

8:49 a.m. the next day: An incident on the Metropolitan Line between Liverpool Street and Aldgate is reported to British Transport Police.

9:15 a.m.: Press Association reports that emergency services have been called Liverpool Street Station after reports of an explosion.

9:33 a.m.: London Underground reports “another incident at Edgware Road” station.

10:02 a.m.: Scotland Yard says it is dealing with a “major incident.”

10:23 a.m.: British Transport Police confirm an explosion on a bus in Tavistock Square.

12:05 p.m.: Tony Blair, this time looking shaken, his voice subdued and quavering, tells the nation that there has been “a series of terrorist attacks in London… people have died and are seriously injured… It is reasonably clear this is designed and timed to coincide with the opening of the G8.” He says he will return to London within hours, but that the summit will continue without him.

The team who presented the winning Olympic bid declare that they will not return to victory celebrations–they will come home quietly, without fanfare. The party is over.

One day. Just one day.

Leaping for joy in Trafalgar Square to police cordons outside Kings Cross. Just one day.

A jigging and hugging prime minister, to a shaken man, leaving a major summit to fly back to Downing Street. Just one day.

A party mood in every corner of the city to a subdued quietness. Just one day.

What can be said?

The thing that struck me was this intense and dramatic contrast. The difference that just one day makes.

The Olympics stands for everything that is good and positive in our world: People from every corner of the world coming together in a celebration of everything which unites them, not divides. Where the only warfare is the warfare of competition, and where the greatest virtue is to be gracious, whether in victory or in defeat. A brief glimpse of the way the world SHOULD be, rather than how it sadly more often is. And that’s what we had won.

Then, just one day later, attacks which represent everything which is evil and hateful in our world: Where blind hate and cold calculation robs the innocent of life and hope. Where the evil heart of the fanatic finds its purpose in the infliction of pain and terror into people who were just going about their daily business. Innocents who, themselves, were dancing for happiness before their TVs less than 24 hours before, many of whom will never see those Olympics because their lives had been taken away from them.

Just one day. Good to Evil. Hope to Terror. Joy to Pain.

It is too early to make any sense of this.

Our politicians and church leaders will say the right words–and, no doubt, those words will bring a certain comfort.

But it is too early. Too raw. Too cruel.

Except that it does point to a world where even great good is so often subverted and stained by great evil.

This is not the world God intended for us. Even Jesus was not immune from it. He, who was pure goodness, was crucified by evil.

And perhaps that’s where we find what hope and meaning we can.

For, think about it: He met in an upper room with his friends. He broke bread and poured wine. And they ate and drank together. Friends together. A fellowship of goodness.

And the next day he was dead; beaten, mocked, spat upon, and killed.

And was that also not just One Day?

Just one day. Good to Evil. Hope to Terror. Joy to Pain.

Just one day.

Let us break bread together too. Let us pour out the wine.

Let us pray for all those bereaved and injured.

And know, that even in our own “just one” days–the Lord is there.


Mike Dales is pastor at Sutton Baptist Church in London. He wrote this sermon Thursday, deciding to save the sermon he planned to deliver this week for a later date.

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