I’m a little sad. My evenings are a little quiet and empty now.
The 2016 Summer Olympics are done. Night after night we turned the TV on to watch some of the best athletes in the world. We saw inspiring stories of sportsmanship, like those of American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, runners who got injured while racing and helped each other in the 5,000-meter run. We saw unlikely gold medalists, like Helen Maroulis, who pulled a huge upset to win America’s first gold medal in women’s wrestling. We saw new stars emerge like Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles and said goodbye to veteran stars like Michael Phelps.
But the one thing I am going to remember the most is the number of athletes giving praise and thanks to God, such as Steele Johnson and David Boudia. They won the silver medal in Synchronized 10m platform diving. When asked about the pressure of performing on this stage, Johnson said that his identity is rooted in Christ so he had nothing to fear.
Of course, those faith stories didn’t capture mainstream headlines, instead the accomplishment itself and the athletes were highlighted instead of the One ultimately responsible. But none of this should shock you. This culture is not interested in God Almighty. This culture is only interested in gods, but be careful, people. The gods of this world WILL fail you. Just look at the likes of Ryan Lochte. After a night of partying and lying and then coming clean (kind of), Lochte has lost millions of dollars in endorsements. Consider the athletes that have been caught using PEDs. Consider the politicians that have been convicted of crimes. Consider anything that you thought wouldn’t fail but did.
Yet, stories of the Lochte variety won’t stop this world from putting someone (or something) else up on the proverbial pedestal. Whether it is a famous athlete or a politician or a family member or something intangible like money or career, we worship gods. People and/or things that cannot save.
It’s why sports are so popular. It’s why people protect their money. It’s why people are passionate about their political candidates. They become gods to us, and therefore we will protect them until our dying breath.
But consider this, Jesus protected our souls WITH his dying breath. Those who have faith in him will be saved. The gods of this world? They will not and cannot do that. They will always let you down. Why? Because they are not strong enough or good enough or perfect enough. No matter the god, they will fail — and fail to ultimately make you happy.
And this is where I am convicted. I opened with the phrase that my evening are quiet and empty now. I, too, worship gods (not something you expect to hear from a pastor). But I, too, am a sinner. May my worldly pedestals be knocked down and my gods deposed. Now bring on the next Olympics.
Pastor Eric Hullstrom leads the congregation at Living Word Lutheran Church (LCMC) in Puyallup. His personal site is heartofapastor.wordpress.com.