People worldwide love the Olympics. From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat, the Olympic Games showcase athletes and their stories, countries and their histories.
For those of us old enough to remember, during the Cold War the Olympic Games were a huge matter of national pride. Everyone knew the roster for the Soviet hockey team consisted of men who played professionally, a no-no back in the day when Olympic athletes really were amateurs. So when our college boys took down the mighty Soviet team on the home ice of Lake Placid during the 1980 Olympics, we heartily chanted, “U-S-A, U-S-A.” We were Americans. These were our athletes.
Any time an American athlete ascends the podium to receive the gold medal and the orchestra plays our national anthem, for a few brief moments, it feels like we really are one nation, as if unity identifies who we are as a people. But the moment quickly wanes, and we return to the status quo of a fractured people. We wish the unity remained.
There is a victory that has made the unity of humanity possible. Paul spoke of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:53-57). His resurrection is the culmination of the gospel where He made from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, one community of the redeemed (Romans 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 12:11-13). If there is to be any unity, harmony, agreement, peace, or goodwill among nations, churches, marriages, and families, it will only come as the individuals in those communities unite around the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every other idea promoting unity fades quickly.
The medal ceremony is a moving event in the Olympics. How marvelous the moment must be for the athlete when he receives his gold medal followed by the playing of his national anthem. If the athlete is fortunate enough to win on his home soil, all the better, then the crowd rises to its feet and sings with him the song of his country. Thousands of voices singing as one for the glory that is their homeland.
In a similar way this is our experience when we gather to worship together. All the voices of the redeemed rise and sing as one the song of our victor, Jesus Christ. From Crown Him with Many Crowns to The Power of the Cross and scores of tunes and texts in between, we declare our oneness because of the victory Jesus achieved. When we gather to worship, we declare to Him, we are one in You, and when we gather to worship, we declare to each other, we are unified in Him.
Enjoy the remaining few days of the Olympics. There is certain to be some great story or event still to come. Enjoy the feeling of being an American when one of our athletes wins and feel a sense of national pride. These experiences and feelings are a shadow of what we will know when all the redeemed of all the ages gather around the throne of the victorious Jesus and sing together, Worthy is the Lamb!
As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.
This Musing first appeared in February 2014 as the world gathered in Sochi, Russia, for the XXII Olympic Winter Games.