Summary: About God’s incredible love for us inspite of our sin which gives us security to move into our world to bless others in Christ’s name
Valentine’s Day, The Olympics and Religion
a. One thing in common in all three: PRESSURE!
In the Olympics – go for the gold! Try telling the Canadian men’s hockey team if they don’t feel it. Tell Elvis Stojko if he does not want to succeed badly and go out in a blaze of glory in this his final Olympic appearance. Tell our women’s curling team, our women’s hockey team, Catriona LeMay Doan if they don’t feel the heat on the ice?
Then on Valentine’s Day – everyone is going for gold too. Tell the hundreds, nay thousands, nay millions who are lined up and sweating buckets at the card and flower shops and other retail stores that sell Valentine Day specialties on Feb.13th because they have not yet bought the perfect card or gift. There’s one single lady who wrote: “There’s one thing worse than not having a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day – actually having one.” She goes on: “you see, single women without a romantic interest on this day of love are only miserable for one flowerless day (a misery usually conquered by large quantities of after-holiday half-price Valentine’s Day candy). But when you do have someone special in your life, you have a sleep-depriving, nail-biting decision – with relationship-making or breaking ramifications – ahead: what to give this semi-significant other.” She further goes on to talk about how males have it easy, red rose – “ love” ; yellow rose – “friendship”, any chocolate – you’re up there with Brad Pitt or a George Clooney. What do u give a guy, she cries! His favorite music CD - does that say “you’re cute”, or a power saw, - “I’m crazy about u”? She ended up buying a boxer shorts with "glow in the dark" hearts because her guy collects funny boxer shorts. Well, on Valentine’s eve she casually mentioned her great idea to some of her Christian friends at work, they responded with raised eyebrows. “But that’s underwear” – went on to explain it may communicate a meaning they didn’t want to get into. The last thing she wanted to do is communicate something suggestive, so she went shopping and only store she could get to is a grocery store, due to work commitments – so she bought red food – strawberries, spaghetti sauce, cherry kool-aid, strawberry poptarts, apples, picante sauce – reason: what bachelor don’t need or want food? but she knew - “all the while knowing this was one of my dorkiest moves yet”. See what Valentine’s Day pressure does to u?
In religion: tell me if the millions, nay billions who go to all sorts of religious services, in temples, mosques, in churches today who don’t feel the pressure of going for the gold in their religious practices. Pressure to measure up to standard of goodness, piety, and saintliness. Never quite sure ever good enough. So the cycle of pressure continues, am I good enough, did I do enough, did I mess up, did I score enough good points to outweigh the bad ones, was that a sin that’s unforgivable?
b. Story of Henri Nouwen, trained psychologist and theologian. Taught at Notre Dame, Yale, Harvard. Averaged more than a book a year. He traveled widely, sought after conference speaker. Yancey said of him, he had a “resume to die for.” That’s was the big problem. He felt suffocated, pressured by his success, by his "going for the gold". So he decided to change, went to S. America, missionary for the 3rd world – did that for 6 months then he came back to US and back to hectic schedule speaking. Again feeling suffocated. Found himself in L’Arche community (France) – home for seriously disabled. Felt nourished there. This was how he spent last 10 years in Toronto in similar setting, a home called “Daybreak”. One writer observed him at this place – he celebrated the Lord’s supper for Adam, a young man that Nouwen looked after – he can’t talk, walk, dress himself, “profoundly retarded” – drooled thru ceremony, no sign of comprehension, perhaps recognized members of his own family, grunted loudly. Takes 2 hours of Nouwen’s day to care for Adam – bathe, shave, brush teeth, comb hair, guide his hand to eat – when asked why not let someone else care for him. His reply “I’m not giving up anything, It is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our friendship.” In the process, the writer learnt how God must feel to love us, spiritually uncoordinated (in fact dead to him), retarded (in fact unresponsive) and when we pray what may seem to Him like incomprehensible grunts and groans.
Stop now! Listen! feeling suffocated, feeling how come try so hard, still end up feeling empty, tired, exhausted... God invites us now to relax in His presence... BY considering how deep is the love of God - God gives us a no pressure invitation no pressure to go for the gold with him, you don’t need to line up your achievements with Him, you don’t need to give gifts/offerings to Him wondering if this is a make or break lifetime decision with what you offer, you don’t need to find the religious ritual to have God on your side as if he would judge your love/worship as if you can bribe Him with all your efforts at good deeds.