On Saturday I blogged my reflections on the Olympic Opening Ceremony and had a few positive responses. Since writing I’ve continued to think about what I mean and so I’m writing “Handing on the Flame, Part Deux” to carry on my internal conversation. Feel free to join in.
Somewhere in the “Money” Chapter in Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says (my summary) that Money has spiritual power because we want it and hold on to it. By giving it away we break that spiritual power and free ourselves to have the relationship with money that God intended. He suggests that we give away money not for the good it will do the people we give it to, but for our own sake, for our own spiritual health. I think it’s the same principle that’s at work in the idea of the year of Jubilee. If, every fifty years you have to give land back to the original owner you can’t become dependent on it for your sense of who you are; you always have to know that everything we have belongs to God. It forces a radical, paradigm shift in your understanding of wealth, power and privilege; it stops you from creating an identity based on what you can hold on to and instead forces you into a radical reliance on who you are in God.
I think that the model suggested by the Opening Ceremony has the same effect. The Olympic heroes were in effect saying “This doesn’t belong to us; it’s bigger than what we have been and what we want” and the same would be true in the church. We think that we can’t let young people be involved in the running of the church because they aren’t mature and wise; they don’t know enough to run it as well as we do. What we’re really doing, though, is hanging on to our power and privilege. Maybe this is why so many found the ceremony so moving, and why some others found it so offensive. It was moving because it offered an opposite vision of what could be, and it was offensive because it challenged people’s ideas about a world based on prestige and success.
Cyd Zeigler on SB.com said this, which rather epitomises this attitude:
“The grand finale, the moment I was waiting for most, was the revealing of the lighter of the flame. So many great options were floated out there...and they chose one more boring and more forced than any other I'd heard: Seven no-name young athletes. I'm sorry, you've got to earn that honor. You've got to achieve greatness before you get to light the Olympic flame. You've got to inspire a nation. Instead, the event producers decided to hand the honor to a bunch of kids.”
I rather think he missed the point; that by giving away the honour to “a bunch of kids” Danny Boyle did indeed inspire a whole nation and maybe even further afield.
The Opening Ceremony programme says this:
“But we hope, too, that through all the noise and excitement you’ll glimpse a single golden thread of purpose – the idea of Jerusalem – of the better world, the world of real freedom and true equality, a world that can be built through the prosperity of industry, through the caring notion that built the welfare state, through the joyous energy of popular culture, through the dream of universal communication. A belief that we can build Jerusalem. And that it will be for everyone.”*
Maybe the same applies to the church: if we give the future of the church to our children, as terrifying as that sounds, the shift in our souls will be so profound that the church will be transformed into something we never dreamed possible.
*Isn't it interesting that the image Boyle used is of Jerusalem, the city where God meets his people.