Across the Pastor’s Desk: One world, one dream

Published 8:37 am Friday, August 15, 2008

Are you watching the television coverage of the Olympic games in Beijing? I am! Of course, I know many of you are also watching on your cell phones and computers and such — the electronics revolution has changed our world in many ways. The opening ceremonies last Friday were spectacular — and featured innovations in projection technologies. Listening to athletes of years past compare their experience to those of today’s participants emphasized how much the world has changed. However, the more they change, the more they stay the same.

What is it about the Olympic games that so captures our attention? Maybe it can best be summed up in this year’s motto: One World, One Dream. The population of the world is connected in ways that our forebears could hardly have imagined. Even as the event is happening — a mine collapse, an earthquake, a tsunami, an act of aggression — the world sees it, feels the emotional kick in the stomach, and responds with compassion. Our neighborhood has expanded from the confines of a country mile or city block to encompassing the entire globe. One World, One Dream.

But wait, I’ve heard that before! Where was it? Oh, yes. from the writer of the Gospel of John — “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). When Jesus was praying, he was hopeful that his ministry might unite the peoples of the world so that they might think with one mind, act in one accord, proceed toward the unified goal of peace on earth. I think the spirit of the Olympic games seeks to accomplish the same.

Email newsletter signup

It is important, if we are to act as one, that we recognize the other people of the world completely and fully. It is our mandate as followers of Christ to do just that. Even as he was ascending into heaven following his crucifixion and amazing resurrection, Jesus gave his disciples (that means all of us!) these instructions: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a) All nations. This means that we don’t look at the difference among us as being things that divide, but rather that we recognize that together we are able to put together a complete picture of who we are as human beings on this planet and whom God calls us to be as brothers and sisters in this family. There are no parameters superimposed upon our call from Jesus to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15). This also includes a requirement that we look to the health of our whole planet — go green — as we work together for unity and wholeness.

The barriers that we might erect — race, language, religion, nationality, gender — are all attributes to be affirmed rather than used as confirmation of our prejudices. I’ve heard that before, too! The apostle Paul said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one…” (Galatians 3:28). Yes, those characteristics exist, but they are irrelevant in the commission of our mandate to unity.

From the official International Olympic Committee Web site, we learn the following: “A motto is a phrase which sums up a life philosophy or a code of conduct to follow. The Olympic motto is made up of three Latin words: “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” which means “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” These three words encourage the athlete to give his or her best during competition, and to view this effort as a victory in itself. The sense of the motto is that being first is not necessarily a priority, but that giving one’s best and striving for personal excellence is a worthwhile goal. It can apply equally to athletes and to each one of us.” Tens of thousands of fans are watching the games on-site, and hundred of millions more on-line. The world is watching.

I think I’ve heard that before, too! The letter to the Hebrews said it this way, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” We are not called to win, but only to persevere in our quest.

Again, the Olympics have adopted this same sense of accomplishment in the attempt itself. And again, from the IOC Web site: “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” (Olympic Charter)

I think we are captured by the spirit of the Olympic games because we have been captured by the Holy Spirit of God and we have been primed for the acceptance of the message of hopefulness for world unity. To accomplish our task of world unity, we have to recognize, affirm, and embrace our neighbors from countries surrounding our globe. The mission? It is simply this — Jesus said “Which commandment is the first of all?”

“’Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your ‘heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:28b-31a) The neighbors have been redefined by modern technologies, and they are closer that our next breath. That is good news!

And finally, as a final though, I would borrow from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games sponsor Visa tells us — GO WORLD!