The Olympics have been great. I have not watched nearly enough, but I got to see some action, and like the rest of us basked in the wonder of New Zealanders winning medals across the board. I admire these people who put so much into their sport; hours and hours of training, hours and hours of practising the skills needed to perform until they become a habit, and the discipline of careful diets to gain the slightest edge. Such dedication in itself is a wonder to behold. And then to see so many rewarded with a medal is fantastic. And so many more making it into the top eight in the world! So many from our little country. Well done to all.
It makes me think about our lives of faith. I have just finished listening to a little book by Most Revd. Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury called “Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer.” He explores these four as the core pillars that shape our lives in Christ. He suggests they are common to nearly all denominations and are what hold us together. In the chapter on prayer he talks about some of the early great writers and there emphasis that in our prayer we are stilling ourselves so that the eternal prayer of the risen Christ might continue within us. We do not pray, but Christ prays within us. And he says that for this to happen we need to stop so that we can be still enough for this prayer to happen. It is much less about the words we say, and more about our stillness so that we might join Christ in prayer. And when we are still enough often enough, we will be changed to be people marked by God.
There are a lot of people wondering about the future of the church. I hear our next clergy conference is on this subject. The problem with paying too much attention to our angst about the future is that it can paralyse us from doing anything, or it can tell us that our job is to ensure the survival of the church. Actually, our job is to join God in the mission of God. The church is God’s concern not ours. And joining the mission is much more about the kind of people we are than the programmes and services we run. It is about being people marked by God’s love, inclusiveness, generosity and mercy. The answer to our angst is to be people of prayer, people who stop regularly in the presence of God. But how much do we really want to change? Our Olympians have shown us what is possible when you stay focussed on the end goal. The invitation as we move through to the end of this church year is to be inspired by their lives of discipline and to learn to make prayer a habit so that we might be people of love, inclusiveness, generosity and mercy.