Readers of The Baptist Times won’t find many editors more indifferent to sport than this one. The new London Baptist Association Olympics Games coordinator, David Pile, has a mountain to climb if he’s to get me interested.
Golf is a waste of a good walk, cricket was designed by people who find fishing too exciting, and football is – as Oscar Wilde remarked of foxhunting – the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.
The weekly sports column in The Baptist Times, written by our news editor and former sports reporter, hasn’t yet succeeded in converting me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally get excited at moments of high drama.
So at the urging of a young family member, I applied for Olympics tickets, safe in the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t get them.
Safe after round one, I felt bound to try again. Imagine my chagrin, then, when I was told I’d been rather more successful than I had wanted.
After a bleak hour spent brooding on the consequences for my pocket and my patience, I cheered up. After all, the Olympics are never coming back in my lifetime.
I might have to watch a sport in which I have very little interest – from memory, I think it was weightlifting, or perhaps handball – but I’ll be there.
Next year, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world will gather in London and its environs, good humored and desiring to be pleased with what they find. It will be a month-long party, and I will be part of it.
I might be rare in the extent of my indifference to sporting activity, but I suspect many churches are approaching the Olympics in the same sort of spirit.
It’s not really our thing, they say collectively. We can’t see the relevance. Why bother?
Well, our capital’s streets will be bustling with people from all over the world. We shall be able to walk a hundred yards and meet people from 50 nations, all of whom will be willing to stop and chat. It will be delightful.
It will also be an opportunity to serve and to shine a light as Christians. Not everyone will be happy.
A month of sport does not involve a suspension of the laws of life and death; there will be small tragedies and great ones to deal with. We know about the dark side of previous games, the prostitution and trafficking that has been such a feature.
And there is always the threat of a terrorist attack, which everyone will have in the back of their minds.
Most of all, though, it will be a great gathering of the children of God (“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” as Malachi asked.)
Who knows what grace-filled encounters may occur when God’s people attune themselves to the movements of his Spirit and go with open and receptive hearts?
And weightlifting? Who knows? I might even enjoy it.
Mark Woods is a Baptist minister and managing editor for ChristianToday.com. He served previously as the editor of The Baptist Times of Great Britain.