(low grade) Olympic fever

ImageWell, here it is: Opening Day of the Olympics, 2012 edition! Are you fired up and ready? Got your popcorn and flags on hand, ready to begin the chant “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

I know. Me neither. I’m not entirely sure why I am not yet burning up with Olympic fever. I remember growing up my family were all big fans; we started to get really excited at least a month before the opening ceremonies.

Maybe I haven’t really latched on to any of the stories of the individual athletes and seen the details of their journey to London. Maybe I’m not as jazzed about gymnastics or swimming or track and field events as I used to be (which would be sad if true). Maybe it takes the spectacle of the opening ceremonies to really get my blood pumping.

Whatever the case, I am sure that when the time comes I will be right there, cheering on the Red, White, and Blue and marveling at the feats of athletic prowess right alongside millions of others around the world.

It strikes me that one significant draw of the Olympics – or really, any sporting event for that matter – is that it gives us a chance to see human excellence and achievement on display. These are not stories of despair, depravity, or decadence that we seem to see endlessly trotted across our TV screens. These are not stories of the inhumanity of one person perpetrated against another… the kinds of stories that cause us to shake our heads in disgust and ask, “What is this world coming to?”

While it is indeed true that there are appalling things taking place in the realm of human relationships these days, it is good to be reminded – regularly – that bright lights far outshine the darkness. As Paul so aptly put it in Romans 5:20 – “Where sin abounded, grace did all the more abound.”

A perfect example was the story that appeared in the Kansas City Star on Wednesday (for you younger readers out there, that is the name of a newspaper… a thing that is printed on newsprint-style paper with ink and thrown onto your driveway every morning). It told the story about two college friends from Connecticut who were on a bicycle trip across the United States. On Thursday of last week, their route took them to the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado where they decided to spend the night with a college friend’s family.

Of course, they all agreed to attend the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century 16 movie theaters. One of them was hit by a blast from the gunman’s shotgun, but the other one escaped, shaken, but unhurt.

As they recounted their story, the friends talked about all of the warnings they received before beginning their trip. People told them to watch out for all the crazy people they would run into… folks who would rip them off, people intent on running them off the road, or worse. And yet in case after case after case, the two said their biggest memory of the trip – even considering the way it ended – was the amazing generosity and good will of people they encountered over and over again.

In an interview from his hospital bed in Denver where he is recovering from his wounds, Stephen Barton had this to say: “There are crazy people out there … but I think they’re such a microscopic fraction of the people you could meet. That’s what this trip has really proven to me. There’s so many people out there waiting to be kind to you, generous to you, in the same way you would be to them. … It was very sustained, the kindness we felt from strangers.”

“Where sin abounded, grace did all the more abound.” May grace abound today in your life and may the memory of that grace surround and overwhelm the sin you might encounter!

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