Japan Olympics 2020… in 2021? Confused…?
Don’t know if you were all “sported”-out after Wimbledon and the Euros – but it is great to see the “World’s-first-postponed-Olympic-games” finally getting underway! Japan 2020 is go!
Japan 2020… except, it’s not 2020 anymore – that’s when the Olympics should have been in Japan, but as with the other 99% of normal life on planet earth, it got coronavirus-ed back into 2021.
Just like the Euros 2020… in 2021…
But, as if to stand in defiance (or is it denial?), we’ve stuck to our guns and decided to party like it’s 2020 anyhow.
And I guess that can work in both positive and negative ways. Andy Murray, for example, wouldn’t have been able to play if the Olympics were last year – and he can’t be the only one. Equally, I am sure that there are plenty of others who imagined that they would be at the Tokyo Games only to discover that the delay has not worked out in their favour.
Get me to the church… on time?
And sports events are far from the only thing that have been coronavirus-ed back a year (at least!).
We’ve already had two weddings this year, with a third on the way in October (watch out, we’ll probably be entering record breaking territory soon!)… Weddings, it turns out, are a lot like buses – you wait ages for one, only to then realise it takes a lot of change… (see what I did there?!).
I’m told that this summer alone there are a reported 50,000 weddings taking place (though, thankfully, not all at Bethel!) as people whose plans have been delayed or disrupted have put their foot down firmly on the pedal and decided it’s now time to press on regardless.
Sun, sea, sand and… social distancing…?
For others, holidays that were delayed a year and have seen the traffic light change in the right direction, but sadly not for everyone’s travel plans.
And, of course, it’s not just holidays that are affected by that – I know of many overdue family gatherings that have been delayed even further yet again.
And in some ways, big and small, all of a sudden 2021 can feel a lot like 2020 all over again.
But – it’s not.
It’s not 2020… and it’s not COVID-2019 either.
Lingering in “No longer…”
As human beings we are, like it or not, creatures of habit. Our lives follow predictable patterns of routines, rhythms and rituals that can be very quick to form and very hard to break. For some of us, breaking free from the rituals of covid-life won’t be as easy as hearing that the restrictions have lifted…
In the Bible, there are many times when God needs to point out to people that they are no longer where they were.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.
God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.
ISAIAH 62. 4,12
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
And that’s to name just a few!
No longer where you were, no longer who you were; no longer slaves, no longer deserted, no longer a curse…
It’s like into the rhythm of all our long held habits and patterns God wants to speak this over and over again: “No longer, no longer, no longer…”
A Meal to Remember…
Every Passover, as Jewish families gather to share a meal together it begins with the “Haggadah” (an ancient Jewish word simply means: “telling” or “recounting”). The youngest person present will begin by asking the oldest member of the family: “Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either leavened bread or matza, but on this night we eat only matza?” And the reply will come:
“Once we were slaves in Egypt…”
Once we were slaves. Once… we… were…
But now we eat this slave’s bread not by force but by choice.
But now we are free. Free to meet together. Free to tell our story. Free to be.
It was at this very meal that Jesus told His own story:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
The forgiveness of sins. For many. Bondage broken. Debt Cancelled. Prison Opened. Free.
No longer a slave.
And Jesus doesn’t want us just to hear about His forgiveness. He wants us to taste it, to receive it, to digest it, to form our lives around a new pattern – the life that flows from His death.
That’s the kind of freedom-bringer Jesus is.
That’s His kind of freedom.
Celebrating Freedom – A Regular Diet
“They devoted themselves to… the breaking of bread…”
The early church, birthed by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, made one of their four primary devotions – this act of remembering Jesus in this new way. We are free. But now not from just slavery in Egypt but from sin and shame, not just from Pharaoh back then but from fear right now. And forever. Fully. Free.
One of the things Aimee and I have appreciated the most about lockdown is having communion together at home, as a family. It’s something we had never done before lockdown – but now we’ve done it loads of times! Just like the Passover, it’s made all the more powerful because of it’s intimacy and simplicity. Around a table, it has often lead onto discussion and exploring and remembering and sharing.
We are free – but sometimes we need reminding. You are no longer there, now you are here.
Remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone
REMEMBER YOUR CHAINS (STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN)
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