10th August 2012

So what are we going to do on Monday after our daily Olympic fix is abruptly withdrawn?  I am still hyped up by last night’s incredible run by David Rudisha’s – 1:40.91, a remarkable time, believe me.

So life next week is going to seem very ordinary, back to the usual diet of tensions in the government and rising Spanish bond yields. Also the lawn will need mowing.  Then the annual angst of following EFC.

So many people have worked so hard to make London 2012 such a success, most unrecognised.  Then the competitors themselves.  They will have been living over the past few years with a single goal to which they have dedicated the whole of their energies.  Now for all these people it will soon be all over.  What now?

The anti-climax can be very testing. “Achievement brings its own anticlimax” observed my favourite American novelist, Maya Angelou. Many find their success difficult to handle.

“Tomorrow begins the rest of my life.”  The first time I heard this expression was from US athlete Billy Mills on winning the Olympic 10,000 metres in 1964. I’m not sure what happened to Mills, but his entry in Wikipedia is mostly about his unexpected victory in Tokyo. His entire life, it would seem, is defined by just one event.

But for many in his position, the telling phrase “has been” says it all.   Obituaries for some expired champions can be depressing reading.

And not just in sport.  Overwhelming success is usually experienced as a let down.  Alexander – who shares the accolade “the Great” with King Herod – reportedly wept when he realized that there were no more worlds to conquer.  John Lennon, on leaving what turned out to be the Beatles last concert in Candlestick Park, San Francisco, looked around the inside of the armoured van, safe from the press of their fans, the fruits of their success.  “Is this it?”

So how do we handle the anti-climax, living in the mundane when the excitement abates?  C.S. Lewis writing in ‘The Screwtape Letters’ talks about life having ‘a series of troughs and peaks’.

As anti-climaxes go, the biggest ever must have been the experience of the disciples following the ascension of Jesus.  First, they were so excited as they laid their cloaks before their leader entering Jerusalem and yet within days they were broken and abandoned.  As they did their best to readjust to life with a defeated Messiah, this same Jesus appeared amongst them. “My Lord and my God” acclaimed Thomas.

Over 40 days the disciples had the experience of meetings with Jesus. You get the sense that they never quite knew when and where these encounters would happen.  But it must have been totally remarkable by any standards!  Amazing.

Then he goes, leaving them with the most difficult commandment of all; Wait here (i.e. do nothing).

We read Acts 1 this week during Morning Prayer.  You get the sense that the disciples really did not know what to do or how to do it, still living in the past as they used dice and some dodgy theology to choose a successor to Judas.  It must have been hugely difficult for them.

But God had his own purposes in waiting for Pentecost before giving the Holy Spirit.  Enthusiasm and excitement, the very emotions we are now experiencing are very poor motivators – for the simple reason that they will so easily go.  What counts is how we perform in the cold light of morning, when our emotions are dead, when we can raise no enthusiasm for the task ahead.

That’s where the disciples were at 8.55 am on that Pentecost morning.

No doubt they felt flat, missing the presence of their Lord, the buzz of being with him – when suddenly and with warning, his Holy Spirit arrives.  It is to their credit that all of the disciples were there, ready for this wonderful gift of God’s grace.

No way do these empowered men and woman now live in the past.

Empowered and embolden, they move out to change the world in company with their Lord who keeps his promises.