Inspiring a generation – the theme of London 2012. Fantastic! Now Lord Coe has been tasked with making the proposed legacy of the Olympics a reality.
At this distance, there is still enthusiasm and pride in what Team GB has accomplished, both in organisation and in sporting performance. But can we make it last? If we don’t build on what we’ve achieved, does it negate the achievement? If we don’t pass the baton (successfully!) and inspire a new generation of sportsmen and women, will we in some sense be disqualified?
The failure to pass the baton successfully rears its head in the book of Judges in the Old Testament section of the Bible. (This is hair-shirt stuff; I wish I didn’t have to read it.) Let’s gatecrash at chapter 2:
“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel…[They] did what was evil… the abandoned the Lord… they chased after other gods… they angered the Lord.” (Selected from Judges 2:10-12)
While this is a dreadful indictment on the new generation, what had happened to the baton of faith that was supposed to be passed securely to their hands?
Strict instructions had been given to the people of God to prevent such a fumble. Here is the famous Shema in Deuteronomy 6:9 which is the first portion of Scripture that a Jewish child learns –
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to those commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Sixteen times in the surrounding chapters, the people are told to be careful – to obey, not to forget, to remember. It is not automatic that faith will continue; they must work at it.
So what had happened that there was a generation that did not acknowledge the Lord? Had the previous generation failed to teach their children well? Did the children dismiss what they were taught as sentimental musings about the good old days which they had outgrown? We don’t know. But we do know the tragic consequences.
There are scary moments in being the “previous generation”. The thought that my grandchildren could ever grow up as a generation who “did not acknowledge the Lord” is anathema to me. How do you let that one slip?
To go back to the Olympic metaphor – is it deliberate, a folding of the arms across the chest, a refusal to pass the baton, as if to hold on to it were to retain the glory? Or is it a drop, an active turning against God that leaves the next runner waiting without purpose? Or is it a fumble, where the next runner runs on, too early out of the changeover box, unaware that the baton is not there. They run hard, outrun others, cross the line, but are disqualified. What a disastrous race!
If we are to inspire a generation, we need to take seriously our own race, our part in carrying the baton carefully, our part in the handover, and pray that neither we, nor they, will be disqualified.
Listen and learn