Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Example of the Olympic Torch

A top bloke with a Torch
I doubt, with the exception of the Innuits, that anyone in the whole wide world is unaware that the Olympic Games are in full swing down the road from me. They too will be aware that the build-up to the Games was marked by many good people (and few numpties too if we are honest about it) being called to carry the Olympic Flame around the whole of Britain, and beyond (into Cornwall, for example). 

For the first few months that the flame wound its way around the Isles, I would yell and scream at the TV that it isn't the Olympic flame, but one ignited by the flame which ignited the flame which (ninety nine a hundred) ignited the Torch in question. A happy soul, me. Enjoy the spirit of it, me. Anyway ...

Something that is very important to my own spirituality is the idea of succession. At one level we have the idea of Apostolic Succession which determines that all clerics are directly succeeded from the Apostles through the laying on of hands (though I might have been successor to the line involving Lucrezia Borgia's dad as I am far too impious for this Vicaring lark). St Peter laid hand on those who laid their hand on the next who laid their hands on their successors and so on until me, and those with me and after me. It is important.

Succession is also important in the story of the Gospel. I have, on a number of occasions now, tried to explain in school assemblies that the journey to, through and beyond Jesus is a chain of events which connects directly through us in the examples of those who nurtured our faith. Succession in the Gospel conditions the importance and significance of the events that preceded them. I may have mentioned it here before, but were it not for the Epiphany, the Virgin birth would be lost on us. Were it not for the crucifixion, the Last Supper would have been meaningless and were it not for the Resurrection, the crucifixion would have been a fine legend to tell the kids along with dragon slaying and Father .... you know what I mean. 

Succession is vital to our connection with our own story. No, I wasn't there in first century Palestine to enjoy the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth first hand. No, the Olympic flame isn't the precise same flame ignited by the girls in night-dresses in Greek Greece. But it doesn't matter. What matters altogether more is that people came together at critical moments to take the gift of fire in that case, or the gift of faith in the church's case, and handed it on. 

Put it another way - it is precisely right to say that the whole Olympics depended on Paul (above) carrying that flame then. Were the chain broken it just wouldn't have been the same.

I think that also means that the Kingdom of God also depends in some small but critical way on our part in this great Succession that we are part of. 

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