Sochi or Seattle

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

The Sochi Winter Olympics are dominating television and press coverage. It is a worldwide event and generates a lot of interest. There are good stories coming out of the Olympics in Sochi. But the greatest Olympic story that I have heard came from Seattle – not Sochi.

A few years ago at the Seattle Special Olympics, where all the contestants are physically or mentally challenged, the event was the 100-yard-dash. Nine contestants were lined up ready to start. The gun sounded. Everyone started – not necessarily with a dash, but with the strong desire to run the race and to finish it and to win.

As they started one boy stumbled on the asphalt and tumbled a couple of times and began to cry. The other eight runners heard the boy cry. They slowed down and paused. Then all of them turned around and came back – everyone of them.

One girl with Down-syndrome bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine runners linked arms and walked together to the finish line.

Everyone in the stadium stood and cheered for fifteen minutes. There wasn’t one winner – there were nine winners! We need to learn in life that real winning doesn’t come when we have some kind of individual achievement as much as when we join together and accomplish a worthy purpose. The concept of team becomes very important.

I have always been kidded about using a lot of sports illustrations. People outside of Frazer would sometimes refer to the pews as stands and then ask “how many people were in the stands Sunday?” During the offering I shared a personal time with the TV audience, which people started calling “half-time.” Instead of referring to Frazer Church, some would refer to Frazer team. They were kidding, but I like the concept of team. Team is a positive compliment.

In I Corinthians 12, Paul instructs the church about the concept of team and unity by using the body as an analogy. He says that the body has a lot of different parts, such as hands, feet, eyes, and ears. Each part of the body has a specific function. No body part should feel that it is more important than another part. One body part cannot do the function of another body part. The body functions best when each part performs its prescribed function and contributes to the unity of the body. That is a description for a team and a church.

Every member of a team doesn’t always contribute equally, but is important. Years ago Stacy King played for the Chicago Bulls. He played with Michael Jordan. One night Jordan had 69 points and came out of the game with about a minute to go. Stacy King replaced him. King got fouled with a few seconds left and made two foul shots. Stacy King retired not long after that and was asked at his retirement about his greatest moment in basketball. He commented, “the night that Michael Jordan and I together scored 71 points!”

Teamwork is so important. John Wooten, who accomplished more as a basketball coach than anyone else, started the practice of having a player who scored a basket to point or smile or signal the man that passed him the ball and made the basket possible. He wanted each player to know that the man who scored would get credit for the basket, but there were a lot of other people responsible for his success. That is a practice that you still see on most basketball teams today.

Today we are split into so many different factions in the church and in society. In American we seem to be tearing each other apart rather than working together. Our forefathers really put together a strong team – they brought us to where we are today. We need to recapture the unity of that team experience. We need to learn again the meaning of community – common unity.

Seattle Olympics beat Sochi Olympics every time!

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