Summary: Christianity is not made up of lone individuals going their own way; rather, Jesus connects us all into one fellowship.

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Bislett Effect

April 24, 2005

1 Peter 2:4-10

2441 words

4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and

5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

6 For it stands in scripture: "See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."

7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,"

8 and "A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Last Monday, April 18, over a thousand reporters and journalists showed up to cover one of the largest single-day sporting events in the world—not the Super Bowl, not the Indianapolis 500, but the Boston Marathon. When the starting gun went off on Monday morning, 20,000 runners traveled from rural Hopkinton to the city of Boston, which is some 26.2 miles, and they were cheered by over 500,000 spectators along the way. An Ethiopian, Hailu Negussie, won the marathon, beating out the Kenyans for the first time in several years. But every single runner, from the fastest to the slowest, received a tremendous boost from cheering fans along the way.

They benefited from The Bislett Effect. The Bislett Effect is a phenomenon that has implications for us all, whether we are practicing our running or practicing our religion. The name comes from Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway, a place where 62 track-and-field records have been set over the years. Think about that. In most stadiums if they have one track and field record, they post a big banner. If they have half a dozen records, people talk about that like it was a big deal. A whopping 62 records have been set in Bislett Stadium in Oslo. No other track can boast of such a record for record-breaking achievements.

Naturally, people interested in track and field events have taken notice of this. The question arises: Why do athletes perform so well in this particular stadium?

According to an article in the magazine Runner’s World (“Oslo’s magic track,” November 2003), the British runner Sebastian Coe set several records at Bislett. Another fine British miler, Steve Cram, who shattered Coe’s record for the mile, said, “If you can’t run well at Bislett, you can’t run well any bloody where.”

But what is the secret of Bislett? It’s the crowd. It’s the fans. The track is narrow, with only six lanes, and the grandstand is so steep that the fans are practically on top of you. “The sound of 21,000 screaming maniacs rakes your reflexes,” writes Kenny Moore, “forcing you to keep your rhythm, the crowd’s rhythm, for one more stretch, one more turn. The frenzied fans keep you going.” The lesson is: People run faster in front of great crowds, because they are running for others.

That’s why 62 records have been broken at Bislett. We run faster in front of great crowds because we are inspired by community — we run not only for ourselves but for the team, the family, the congregation, the tribe, the party, the nation. “Our deepest nature,” concludes Moore, “is that we are at our most majestic when we do for others.” And we can do more when we do for others. That is the Bislett Effect.

The apostle’s Peter and Paul knew all about The Bislett Effect. Paul was fond of using athletic metaphors to make a spiritual point. In I Peter chapter 2, Peter uses instead a construction metaphor. Addressing Christians who were scattered across five provinces in Asia Minor, he says: “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Peter is making a point similar to the Bislett effect. Christianity is not made up of a group of lone individuals each going their own way. Christianity is not about just my relationship to Jesus Christ. Rather, Jesus connects us all into one fellowship.

The Apostle Peter knows that inspiration comes from the crowd. He does not call it the Bislett Effect. He prefers instead the Living Stone Syndrome.

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