As I write this that wonderful weekend of Olympics is still fresh in my mind: Mo Farah tripping, picking himself up, persevering and still managing to win gold in the 10,000 metres; Andy Murray defending his tennis title; Max Whitlock winning 2 golds in gymnastics; Justin Rose winning the golf, to name but a few and, of course, Fiji winning the Rugby 7s earlier in the week.
Watching the opening ceremony has brought back some amazing memories from 4 years ago. In 2012 we were living in Aylesbury very close to the famous Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the home of the Paralympics. This made 2012 extremely special.
Many of us will have seen the Olympic torch being carried through the town, some may even have carried it. We were fortunate enough to see it carried along the main road behind our house, but living near Stoke Mandeville Hospital it was the ceremony surrounding the lighting of the Paralympic flame that will always bring back joyful memories. We took part in a great festival in the centre of Aylesbury. We joined a unique choir of able-bodied and disabled singers. The rehearsals beforehand were a delight and the determination of the wheelchair bound choir members was amazing.
We were due to perform as it began to get dark. We had all taken our places on the outdoor stage and as we waited to begin singing something really beautiful happened that we hadn’t anticipated. We were facing east and as we watched the clouds cleared and the full-moon rose directly in front of us. For us the timing was perfect and we couldn’t keep our eyes off it. It was one of those moments I will never forget, a sign of special blessing from God, and the evening got better and better whilst the moon continued to shine down on us. This brought to mind the great priestly blessing of Aaron in the book of Numbers 6:24-26:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Peace and joy are my prayers for this year’s games. The statue of Christ the Redeemer with arms outstretched overlooking Rio, and providing a wonderful backdrop to the games, reminds us that Christ offers peace and love to all who seek him, and He is always with us. His outstretched arms are ready to embrace and celebrate with those who persevere and do their very best, and lift up those who fall, but they are also ready to comfort those who are filled with disappointment and feel they have failed.
Christ is with us in times of joy and times of sorrow, times of hope and times of despair, times of great achievement and times of failure and disappointment, times of delight at new birth and new beginnings and, during times of deep sadness and tragedy, He is there, suffering alongside those whose lives are devastated by droughts, floods, terrorism and war.
We live in uncertain times. We do not know what will happen over the next month anywhere in the world, but what we can be absolutely sure about is God’s love. God loves us and Rio’s statue of Christ the Redeemer reminds us of that.
As the Apostle John wrote in his first letter from the Good News version of the Bible:
Dear friends let us love one another, for love comes from God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. .. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. Jesus Christ is our saviour and our redeemer.
I hope and pray that by the time you read this we have all enjoyed a happy, peaceful and successful Olympics and we are looking forward to an equally delightful Paralympics.
Hazel Butland Licensed Reader
Tavistock Mission Community