The 2018 Winter Olympics just completed another run. PyeongChang, South Korea, served as gracious host and everyone from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to the news stations praised the games as a dramatic success and suggested that these games will continue to leave their mark in a legacy of peace. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said at the closing, “Here in Korea, we will continue our endeavor to broaden the horizon of peace that began in Pyeonchang.”
The tally is in too, not just the medal tally, but with the building of all the event venues, athlete’s village, and the centerpiece Olympic stadium, South Korea spent $13 Billion dollars preparing for these winter games. What happens to all that after it’s over? Ask Rio, host of the 2016 Summer Olympiad. Its multi-million dollar facilities are now a public eyesore, unused and unkempt. Ask Athens, whose 2004 Summer Olympic facilities after dilapidating for more than a decade are now used for refugee tent camps. Korea has decided rather than see those things happen its $109 million dollar Olympic stadium and other facilities used in this year’s games will be decommissioned and demolished after the games conclude.
It makes you think about our modern fascination with disposability and the Olympic nature of the race of faith that the Apostle Paul tells us we are each running. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. . . .They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we and imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). Or as the writer of Hebrews says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Or to put that in Winter Olympic terms, “skate that you might obtain it” or “let us ski the course that is downhill before us.” Either way, the questions that this year’s Olympics has me thinking about are: “What happens to the venue for these events when OUR course is done? Is it disposable too? When we’ve reached the finish line, received our prize, and have been crowned with that imperishable wreath of everlasting life with Jesus, are our bodies, derelict and abandoned, of any use anymore?” Aside from the donation of tissue or organ, which may bring life to someone else's race, none of our bodies will be spared a fate worse than Olympic stadiums. They all return to dust. For that reason some choose just demolish what’s left when the games are over in a process of cremation. Others would rather see a respectful decommissioning with full casket and burial.
Do you think disposing of a $109 million dollar Olympic venue sounds like a remarkable waste? God feels the same about the venue that’s been his dwelling throughout our life of faith. Part of the Christian committal service is an ancient blessing that says, “May God the father, who created this body; may God the Son, who by his blood redeemed this body; may God the Holy Spirit, who by Holy Baptism sanctified this body to be his temple, keep these remains to the day of resurrection of all flesh.” In other words, God places a much higher value on our bodies than any has been Olympic stadium. They are to him worth much more than “perishable things like silver and gold” says Peter in 1 Peter 1:18-19, but are worth “the precious blood of Christ.” That’s why God is not content to leave them to dilapidate.
At the end of this month we’ll rehearse the closing ceremony of Jesus ministry, passion week. We’ll watch Jesus finish his course on the cross. Yet April 1 of this year, no fool’n, we’ll celebrate the future God has in store for each of us. Is that the day Jesus’ soul went to heaven? No! It’s the day Jesus rose bodily from the grave. It’s resurrection Sunday. Paul calls it the “first-fruits” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). That is to say, Jesus’ resurrection is the precursor of our own. God who created, redeemed, and took up residence in our bodies for a time by his Spirit as we ran our race of faith, will resurrect and restore these perishable dwellings and turn them into imperishable ones. That’s the way Paul talks about it in 1 Corinthians 15, and they’ll be even better than they were the first time around. That’s because when he comes he will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). What a grand opening ceremony that will be; one which will leave a legacy of unprecedented and never-ending peace.
So, carry on in the race, skate with endurance, ski with your eyes fixed clearly on Jesus, not even Olympic gold holds a torch to the prize the LORD has in store for us.