The Olympic Torch comes to town, and thousands will gather to watch it pass. It is a powerful symbol of the Olympic movement which captures the imagination of many as it journeys from its original home in Athens to the place where the Games will be held. Two major notions develop from the Olympic Torch's journey: that of the Spirit of the Olympic Games, and that of light. Perhaps these two ideas are what piques interest in the torch amidst so much scepticism and disillusionment about the Olympic movement.
The Spirit of the modern Olympic movement is related to endeavour: men and women of all nations pitting themselves against the challenges of the course and against each other in order to bring out their very best. In the amateur origins of the games, that stood out with no other reward besides the recognition of what had been achieved. And those achievements were measured not simply in gold medals, but in the ability to extract the best from oneself, and in ability to overcome the odds. Today this seems to be too often artificially achieved.
Which brings us to the light - that which burns to remind us of what the Spirit of the Olympic Games should be about. Its journey from its origins ought to remind us of what the foundations of the games were, as well as a symbol lighting the path to the future.
These two notions have strong roots in the Christian tradition, and give us pause to consider our own place in the journey of faith. Have we kept alive the Spirit of the Church? Does the Spirit of Jesus emanate from ourselves, both as a community and as individual members of the body of Christ? It can be argued that somewhere along the path of history the church has moved away from its origins, to the detriment of its mission, its purpose, and the people who were not only part of the church, but those who were to be served by it. Where does the light of the Spirit burn today?
And we remember the origins of the church, back at Pentecost, back at the cross. The light must be shed on these two events to bring us back to the important origins and foundations of faith. The picture of the church in Acts 2 is a reminder of the important foundations of a community of faith. But the light also illumines the path ahead, revealing the steps which today demands of us to keep that Spirit, that light, alive.
The journey of the Olympic movement is a reminder to the church of its mission and purpose, and the challenges we also face.
July 30, 2000