This Sunday at Trinity United Church we had the opportunity to hear Melissa Hill, daughter of Ernie and Vicki Nock speak. She was chosen to take part in the Olympic Torch relay across the country, to bring the flame to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia.
Melissa told us that in order to qualify, she had to enter a kind of lottery. Her name was drawn out of the pool of all those who applied. But there was more than luck involved. Part of the application process was to provide information about her personal achievements, her community involvements, and her ongoing commitment to make Canada a better place.
Melissa has accomplished many things in her life as an athlete, a student, a researcher in a demanding field. She is involved in work that contributes significantly towards efforts to cure cancer. She is clearly the kind of person who deserves the honour of carrying the Olympic Torch.
Members of the congregation who watched Melissa grow up, and who have had regular updates on her progress through life, were happy to celebrate this latest achievement. Many of us had our picture taken with Melissa and the torch.
I found it a bit of a challenge to connect the occasion of Melissa's presentation to a scriptural or spiritual theme for the worship service. I chose hymns that made use of flame imagery. During the children's time I organized a "Bible relay" in which kids passed the book from one to another, making it all the way around the perimeter of the sanctuary in about 16 seconds. I was able to point to this as an example of cooperative team work- which is also a way we can think about the Olympic torch relay- a huge group of people working together to accomplish a shared goal.
I tried to avoid working the "passing the torch" symbolism too hard. Sometimes this image is used to talk about passing the faith from one generation to the next. While it can be quite an evocative image, I think it has a weakness.
In a relay race, once you have passed on your "baton", you stop running.
As people of faith, we are called to keep on moving, to always be about passing on the message, the Good News about our relationship with God.