OK…who stole the sun? Would whoever has taken it away please give it back?!
On a more serious note…the Olympics are here so here are two quotes:
“A leader is best when people barely know he [sic] exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu (Chinese philosopher 6thBC)
“Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove” Jesus (c33AD) The Bible
We will soon be in the midst of the Olympics and because of this I have many Scripture verses to choose from. The Bible is full of sporting imagery.
Instead, I have chosen something which requires a little more thought. A few weeks ago I was asked to lead the opening prayers at Surrey County Council. The reason I used those quotes for a Council Chamber also stands for using them in a piece when we have a busy Olympic summer ahead of us. Not only that, we are in a busy time locally too. We have had Jubilee events and village fetes. In the church we have welcomed the Rev David Jenkins and the Rev James Gibson.
David is already well known in Hambledon and is what the church terms a ‘locally ordained vicar’. James will be with us for up to half a decade before he goes on to lead a parish elsewhere. James explained it well when he was asked what the next few years will mean for both of them. He replied “we are vicars in training; with L plates on… we get to try things out and Simon gets to pick up the pieces”. David and James are both clergy across Busbridge and Hambledon area but it is likely that David will spend more time involved with Hambledon on a Sunday and James around Busbridge; if only because Catherine is overseeing David’s training and Simon doing the same for James.
If we look forward we have the church holiday club (23-27th August) and then in September we are inviting everyone connected with the church to a special away-day together at King Edward’s School in Witley (30th September).
In between it we have the Olympics. What does ‘wise as a serpent…’ have to do with all this?
Queen Elizabeth I used to attend thrice weekly court sermons and prayers during Lent by sitting at a window in her Whitehall Palace. During her father’s reign an outdoor pulpit had been built; facing the royal council chamber; and the preacher would stand and bellow at the Monarch sitting in their room.
In 1596 one Rev Anthony Rudd preached a sermon towards Queen Elizabeth where he dared to urge her “to prepare her soul for death”. The queen opened the window and shouted “that the greatest of clerks are not always the wisest of men”.
The queen may have been offended, but she was also accurate. We will see great achievement in the Olympic stadium, we have two great new clergy in the church team, we may have achieved great things in our own arena of work or life but the greatness of position does not automatically confer wisdom.
Snakes and serpents usually get a bad press in the Bible but to be wise as serpent means, like a snake coiled for the strike: discerning the motives of the heart, watching the eyes of those in the race alongside us and sensing the subtle movements of the soul. Wisdom in the Bible is often associated with prudence. Not running. Not forcing the pace for personal ends. Not taking unfair advantage. Not assuming that because you won one race you have the authority to assume you will always be the richest in the prizes and in life.
What of innocence as of a dove? Innocence does not mean giving your opponent the advantage in a race, business or life. It is about protecting the integrity of your soul before God. The Rev Anthony Rudd had innocence in spades. He was innocent to speak the truth rather than offer something which would be a false promise. You probably already know that doves do not tend to bite in anger. They are not docile, but they are gentle.
What might gentleness of Christ appear like in the Olympics? In Busbridge and Hambledon as a growing church? In our own lives? The place where we are the ‘leader’ of a family, a community or a voluntary group? Perhaps it would look something like this:
A leader is best when people barely know he exists.
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, we did it ourselves. Lao Tzu
Here’s to a great Olympics, Summer (with some sun?), Holiday Club and Church Away Day.