The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Are you watching The Olympics? Yes, they’re happening but I find I’m dipping in and out of them and catching up on the summaries, the little video clips, the news articles, and of course the medal tallies. As everyone is saying, ‘This is a different Olympics, that’s for sure’.
But I did listen to the women’s triathlon earlier in the week while I was doing some work and then became so engrossed in the race that I turned on the screen and watched it. The condi-tions weren’t ideal with the rain and slippery surfaces but that’s the deal isn’t it – you take the weather as it is and everyone has to cope. I was impressed by Brit-ain’s Jessica Learmouth’s swim which very much set the pace and spread the contestants. The commenta-tors were giving histories and past performances of Bermuda’s Flora Duffy and American Katie Zaferes and there was another British competitor in the front group – Georgia Taylor-Brown. I was watching by this time when I heard the groan of anguish from the com-mentators and the suggestion that Taylor-Brown’s bike had a flat tyre. It had – but she kept riding and falling behind. I remember admiring the determination – and sheer effort! – evident in simply keeping feet in the pedals and the wheels turning. And then the 10km run began and I wanted her to catch up to the others (wouldn’t that be something?!) who themselves were spreading out. That’s the point of a triathlon – three sports and each contestant has a favourite. And then Georgia Taylor-Brown did just that – begin to pass the runners in front of her, lap by lap she was catching up. Yes! And I’m thousands of miles away watching but there is simply energy and excitement building in me in the hope that she could achieve a medal. It was weird – she was running – and I was hoping and getting involved – and was certainly smiling and cheering to see her win the silver medal!
All three medal winners had stories of struggles – of injury and loss – and of determination that were to be applauded. And I was aware again – was it still the buzz of cheering? – of the power of hope to keep one going forward, going on. That is the story of so much of the Olym-pics. And it is also the story of life particularly in this pandemic time which is so often likened to either a war time or a time of a natural disaster. And hope plays such an important role in how we react to any moment – whatever it is – and how we look to the future.
For the Christian, hope is faith looking into the future. Hope isn’t simply positive thinking or even a can-do attitude – though they certainly have their places in our life – because Chris-tian hope isn’t grounded in us. It is grounded or focused on a cross and an empty tomb which if true in the past – it is! – is therefore true now – and will be true in the future (however long that is!). This hope recognises tough times – long, tough times – and holds two things in ten-sion – that the future will get better even if in the short term that isn’t obvious – and that we are not alone in our struggles because our crucified Lord is not absent. True, we don’t see or hear him as we see each other but through faith his words and promises hold us and help us in that moment in some way. I can say ‘I hope to live well’ and in Christ that is a true state-ment even on the day of my death! Hope (in Christ) energises us because we know God’s love through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit to keep go-ing forward, going on – even if one of our tyres are flat!