Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


Own It!

In a recent article titled: “If arrogant nationalism were a sport, Canada would win gold” Gazette reporter Henry Aubin offers the following thoughts on the current Winter Olympics being hosted in Vancouver.

The Olympics are supposed to be uplifting. So far, the Vancouver Olympics are anything but.  The problem starts at the very top: the Own the Podium initiative, that federally sponsored program that aims to overcompensate for the supposed ignominy of Canada’s modest collection of medals at past Olympics by making this country the No. 1 nation in terms of medals won. That’s right, No. 1. Arrogance, not the Olympic spirit, is what inspires Own the Podium.  Yes, let’s not forget the Olympic spirit. It’s that corny but terrific idea that, in the words of Pierre de Coubertin, “The important thing is not to win but to take part.” That idea has become unfashionable in recent decades, but the organizers of these Games have consigned it to oblivion.

A lot of debate has been raging both within and outside of Canada on the merits and morality of this Own the Podium idea.  I can’t speak for the merits.  I see lots of gold, lots of silver, and Canadian athletes all over the top five and ten of nearly every event.  I am very proud of all that our athletes have accomplished so far.  Again, as to the merits of Podium Ownership program  … In a later article found on the CBC website we read:

Heritage Minister James Moore attended an International Media Centre celebratory event in Vancouver Tuesday with the new ice-dance champions and said the name of the Own the Podium program should not be taken literally.  “It’s not, ‘First place or bust,’ ” said Moore.  “It’s … ‘Go for gold and go for broke and do yourself proud and perform at the best of your ability.'” … “I just think that the Canadian team is so strong and we’re so much better than we’ve ever been and I really am having a hard time seeing the downfall of a program like Own the Podium.”

You are, of course, free to disagree with me (and the athletes) on the merit of the program.  But what about the morality of the initiative?  This, seems to be at the heart of the most vitriolic attacks against it.  “Arrogance” Mr. Aubin called it. The opposite of the Olympic Spirit, he implies.  Morally reproachable, if not the express language used, is the idea being tossed about.

But why?  Are the Canadians the only ones at the games striving to be the best?  Are the athletes from all the other countries truly ashamed of winning? Are they, in the true spirit of the games, refusing to accept their medals because the important thing for them was simply to take part?  Or is it just the fact that we had the gall to say it out loud.  We want to be the best.  We want to do the best.

Why is this somehow morally distasteful?  Why is this wrong?  It is wrong only because of the insipid taint of relativistic thinking.

There is a distorted view of reality that has crept into our lives and our thinking.  Words like best and worst, right and wrong, truth and lie are now dirty things.  Who are we to say that one way is right and another is wrong?  To strive for the “best” is to place an unfair burden of “worst” on someone else … and just who are we to do that to someone else?  To make a claim for truth is to call anything else a lie and who are you to judge such things?

Can’t we all just get along? It is a particular burden that we Christians have born the brunt of for some time now.  Who are we to “force our morality” on others?  (By the way, when someone “lays” this charge on you, guess what they are doing!)  Who are we to say that we are right and others are wrong?  Who are we to say that our religion is better than anyone else’s?  Who are we to have convictions and strive to live them out?  How dare we!

How dare we not?  Again I ask … why is this wrong?  Why should we be ashamed that we think we are right?  Either God is real and His Word stands as truth or He isn’t and His Word doesn’t.  Truth is not a matter of opinion, but of reality.  If we didn’t think Christianity was right, what’s the point of being Christian?  Why should we be embarrassed that we know the truth and are seeking to share that truth with the world.  Why should we be settle for something that is second best, or worse yet, consigned to meaninglessness in the quagmire of relativism?  What good does that do us or this world?

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  If you believe it, then own it!  Don’t ever be ashamed of it!  Seek to live it, cling to it, and proudly proclaim it to one and to all – whether they agree with you or not.  AND  NEVER, EVER apologize for it.  Striving for the best is never wrong, and holding to the truth is nothing to be ashamed of.  In this PR world of relativism and “Can’t we all just get along” you may not always win.  You may even crash horribly from time to time.  But there is Gold waiting for you at the finish line.

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Philip Melanchthon and the Good News that rises from the Dust and ashes …

In the preparation for tomorrow’s Ash Wednesday service, in some recent deaths that struck close to home, and in the remembering of dear friends and saints now departed in the faith I have found my thoughts going back again and again to dust and ashes.  “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” They are the words of the day come tomorrow.  So perhaps I can be forgiven, if when in our church we celebrated Philip Melanchthon today my first thought was of his grave in Wittenberg.  Many years ago I had the privilege of standing beside it, there before the steps of the chancel, right across the isle from the resting place of Martin Luther.

Yet strangely, remembering Philip in this way is not morbid, nor simply the product of being overwhelmed by my preparations for Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Good Friday observances.  For standing before the grave of this confessor, this faithful Christian, I was (and still am) struck by the beauty and poignancy of the image.  For even though we, like Philip, are dust and to dust we must return, there is more to his – and our – story.  It can be summarized in the equally well known dust and ashes wording from our funeral services. “We now commit the body of our brother to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It was in this resurrection faith that Philip Melanchthon lived and worked, and confessed and died.  It was in this faith that he was buried in the sanctuary of his church, before the altar of his Lord.  It was this faith he wrote about when he said:

On account of this promised seed [Christ] their sins were forgiven them and they would be set free from sin and from eternal death. Through this faith they were righteous, not through the fulfillment of the Law. By this faith they were raised up in all dangers and terrors. Indeed they knew that this Lord was present with them … All triumphs against our adversary, the devil, are imparted through this Son. Noah was preserved, Abraham defended, Joseph brought out of prison, the people freed from Egypt … Thus the Gospel of the apostles preaches Christ, and testifies that He is the sacrificial victim, liberator, and Saviour, and commands us to trust this leader and liberator.

As we prepare ourselves for the dust and ashes of tomorrow, and the  journey of faith and repentance called lent, let us do so with this picture of Philip Melanchthon – Lutheran, Christian, Confessor, patiently awaiting the promised resurrection of all flesh.  Even though his body is now little more than dust and ashes, his confession shines as brightly as ever, and his faith remains stronger than ever.  For this very same preserver of Noah, defender of Abraham, and emancipator of Joseph was (and is!) the Redeemer – the sure and certain hope – of Philip Melanchthon, and all we who follow in this faith.  A faith in the One who justified Philip in his life of faith … and the one who will came again to raise him, along with us all, from the ashes of death.

The Church from You, dear Master, Received the gift divine; And still that light is lifted O’er all the earth to shine. It is chart and compass That, all life’s voyage through, Mid mists and rocks and quicksands still guides, O Christ, to You. (LSB # 523:2)