Good morning, I'm the Rev'd Steven Page for St Patrick's Anglican Church. This month, our devotional thoughts are inspired by notable moments in the world of sports. In honour of the Olympics in London, let's talk about some of the past Olympics.
The first time the Olympic Games came to Canada was 1976, when the Summer Games were played in Montreal. And one of the most memorable athletic accomplishments at those games was the performance of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci. On July 18, 1976, Nadia scored a perfect 10.0 in the uneven bars gymnastics event. It was the first time in Olympics history that a gymnast had made a perfect score. In fact, the scoreboards were not built to handle a perfect score. So they displayed it as a blinking 1.00. Young Nadia, who was only 14 years old, actually made another 6 perfect scores during those Olympic Games. She won the gold medal in the Uneven Bars, the Balance Beam, and the All-Around gymnastics events.
Well, that year, a 7-yr-old girl in Fairmont, West Virginia, was watching the Olympics on TV. She was so inspired by Nadia's performance that she took up gymnastics. She had a natural talent, and got some good coaching, and before you knew it, in 1984, Mary Lou Retton stood at the ready at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Several Soviet-bloc countries boycotted the Games in LA, but Romania sent a team. And Retton's main rival for a medal was the Romanian Ecaterina Szabo. And in the individual All-Around competition, Szabo led Retton by 15-one-hundredths of a point with two events to go.
But on the Floor Exercises portion, Mary Lou Retton scored a perfect 10.0, like her childhood hero Nadia a few years earlier. That closed the gap between her and Szabo. Then on her final event, the Vault, Retton raced down the floor, jumped, bounced high off the springboard, spun and turned in the air, and landed without the least little slip. Everyone held their breath... The judges gave her another perfect score, 10.0, and the Los Angeles crowd went wild with joy! Retton won gold, pulling ahead of Szabo by 5 one-hundredths.
Her two perfect scores helped her win Gold. She copied the amazing accomplishment of Nadia Comaneci, the gold medalist she had watched and admired eight years earlier.
You know, the Bible invites us to copy our Lord God. Eph 5 says, “be imitators of God, ... and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (NIV84). Or in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets the bar for us quite high, calling us to “be perfect... as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)When he says this, Jesus is echoing the words of God in the Old Testament, when God challenges his people to look like him in how they live. God says, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Lev 19.1)
If that sounds intimidating, to copy and imitate the perfect holiness of God, remember this: 1st, often something is lost in making a copy, they are rarely as sharp as the original. You can usually tell when you are holding a photocopy, because they are more streaky or spotty or fuzzy than the original document. Our efforts to copy and imitate God's perfect holiness might be a bit imperfect.
But the 2nd thing to remember is that God is more pleased by our desire and our attempts to imitate Christ than by how close we come. That frees us to do our best for God, to love and serve with all our hearts, all our strength. Then trust that God receives our feeble efforts. Through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, God will more and more sharpen and clear up our fuzzy copies. As we grow in faith and maturity, our God-imitations will look more and more like our Heavenly Father. And when the day comes that we stand before our judge on God's throne, God will look over to Jesus, who will hold up a 10.0 saying, yes, this one is a perfect imitator of me. For St Patrick's church, I'm Steven Page