This is the text of an article I wrote for the local newspaper. This was my first of what will be monthly reflections published in the Altamont paper. Nothing controversial here, just getting established.
I love the Olympics. It’s not just about the sports. I love the narratives we impose upon them. The Olympic Games are always rife with stories of people overcoming adversity in order to participate. The world records are always overshadowed by the human milestones that are achieved. It isn’t just that Michael Phelps is perhaps the greatest Olympic athlete we’ve ever seen; it’s also that he once was a fidgety overactive kid with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder whose mom took him to the pool because she didn’t know what else to do with him. Oscar Pistorius became history’s first Olympic runner on prosthetic limbs. David Boudia took home Olympic gold for the 10 meter platform dive, but he first had to overcome his fear of heights to even climb the ladder.
But the interesting narrative to me was that of American gymnast Jordyn Wieber. If you remember, Jordyn is a member of the US Women’s Gymnastics team, who now call themselves “The Fierce Five.” Going into the Olympics she was the world champion in women’s All-Around gymnastic competition. But on the Olympic stage with seemingly the whole world watching, she failed to even qualify for the All-Around event. She had every reason to enter the qualifying round expecting gold, and ended up excluded from the competition. A lesser soul would have been crushed, but when the time came for the team competition she performed like a champion and made a massive contribution to the Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team gold medal. The Jordyn Wieber story became one of putting aside her own feelings in order to make a selfless contribution to her team. She gave the best performance she could, not for her own glory, but for that of her friends and teammates. What a great narrative!
As a new pastor in this community, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from Jordyn Wieber and the women’s gymnastics team. The church I serve is only one member of a fantastic team of churches in this community. The idea that the Methodists are in competition with any other denomination is false. We are in competition together, seeking not a gold medal for ourselves, but rather victory for the Kingdom of God. I strive for success, not purely for my own ministries or my own church, but for God’s Kingdom right here in Altamont. And as I work to make my own contribution, I root for the success of my teammates of every denomination as well. Yes, my goal is to be a great pastor for the First United Methodist Church, but my greater goal is to be one of several great pastors in service to the living God for the people and community of Altamont. We’re all part of the same team with the same goal. I look forward to working with my new teammates in this great community.
That’s my narrative and I’m sticking to it.