Is there a more joyful and inspiring sight than the annual London Marathon? Each year I marvel at the dedication, selflessness and sheer guts of runners pushing themselves beyond all reasonable endurance for the sake of strangers. It’s a day that arouses my total admiration as I sit glued to the television - with my box of tissues!
The most ever applications to run the London Marathon were submitted this year and over 40,000 participants began this iconic race. It made me think about the legion of people who were in place to enable the Marathon to be such a monumental success. “Legion” is no exaggeration ~ just think: 1,200 members of St. John Ambulance in attendance, 7,000 marshals along the way, countless enthusiastic cheer-leaders encouraging the brave runners, hundreds of volunteers at the designated water stations, 120 physiotherapists and students on stand-by to ease aching muscles, to say nothing of the police and ambulance presence. There are volunteers to blow up balloons advertising various charities, people to put up sign-posts, foil-wrap distributers for exhausted finishers, teams giving out medals and even guides to assist runners who have dropped-out so that they can meet up with friends at the finish. There will be heaps of others involved but you get the flavour of this amazing event. Here is TEAMWORK personified.
John Donne, the poet/priest and contemporary of William Shakespeare wrote the famous lines often only half quoted:
“No man is an island entire of itself.
Every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.”
Just as no individual marathon runner is isolated from the team of supporters so our own lives are supported and encouraged by others. We are so blessed to have shops, hospitals, schools, transport ~ so many people contributing to our life. We are also blessed with our church family, by the prayer chain, the fellowship at various events and the support from friendships in our hour(s) of need.
In a spiritual context we can quote the Apostle Paul
(1 Corinthians 12 : 14 & 27): “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many...you are the body of Christ and each one of you is part of it.”
There seems no getting away from it ~ we belong together. Life in every area is so much easier with harmony and co-operation.
I hope you saw the Channel 4 documentary back in April, Jesus’ Women Disciples. Biblical scholars, the professors Helen Bond and Joan Taylor shone light on verses which never seem to feature in our weekly readings. It was nothing outrageous nor was it anything new as the verses have always been there. The professors highlighted the individual names mentioned in the gospels: Jesus’ mother Mary, Mary and Martha, Joanna, Susanna, Salome and Mary Magdalene. The mere mention of a name indicates that they were well-known and important to Jesus and his travelling companions and amongst the first Christian converts. But the interesting verses are Luke 8: 1-3 “these women were helping to support them out of their own means.” This again underlines the benefits of teamwork. The women and their financial support were invaluable to maintaining Jesus’ ministry. Perhaps the message for us today is that we are called into the “ministry of all believers” whereby we share our faith over the washing-up, the cooking or the financial giving. As present-day disciples all our gifts are needed for building up the Christian community.
When we turn up for a Sunday morning worship do we ever think of the number of people involved to enable that hour to run smoothly? During the week the Notices have been collated, printed and taken to church. A steward receives the order of service by the Thursday and distributes it to the reader on duty, the AV team and the pianist or organist. If the music group is singing they will have been previously rehearsing and if the band is playing they will rehearse on the Saturday. So when you arrive on the Sunday morning, if in the winter, someone will have made sure the heating is working and always the church and coffee lounge have been cleaned. Door stewards greet you (at both entrances) and hand out the notices, up in the gallery the AV volunteers take charge of the words and images for the screen and also make sure the microphones are working. You will see beautiful flowers have been arranged in the sanctuary and during the service there are people to care for any children in the crèche. Coffee and biscuits at the close of worship are produced by another rota while the treasurer is counting the offering. Finally, there is the preacher!
To my reckoning - and apologies if I have omitted a vital person - for each morning service there will be at least 20 people involved.
What a great team we have!
Just like the London Marathon, our church team covers a wide age-range. But it is not just a once a year thing for them, it is an on-going quiet dedication of faith from which we can all take inspiration.
Have I ever run a marathon? No, but the oldest runner this year was 87 so I still have time to practice....