"Who Should Get the Gold?"
March 6, 2014
Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." John 4:13-15
Not so long ago I stood with a pastor looking at the pictures of his congregation's confirmands.
Year after year those pictures showed young people who had gone through class and promised to be "faithful until death so they might be given the crown of life" (see Revelation 2:10). With great sadness on his face and in his voice, the pastor reminisced about those who had drifted away from their church and Lord. He summed up his frustration by saying, "I just don't understand."
At the time I didn't have an answer for him. I still don't, but maybe Olympian Vic Wild does.
Coming from the state of Washington, and pursuing a degree in Salt Lake City, Wild was born and bred a citizen of the US of A. Even so, he has won a gold medal for Russia. Does that sound slightly strange to you? If so, maybe an explanation might be in order.
A number of years ago, Wild realized that his activity of choice, men's snowboarding parallel giant slalom, wasn't very high on America's radar. He noticed he wasn't being interviewed near as often as some of the folks on the skating teams, nor did his sport receive the same level of financial backing and public encouragement.
So, Wild made some decisions. The first was to marry his Russian girlfriend, whom he had been dating for five years. Second, he applied for, and received, Russian citizenship. Lastly, he qualified to be on the Russian team. After his victory, Wild said, "I was so stoked to win it for Russia."
Writing this devotion it occurs to me that our readers are probably divided into two groups. The first says, "Vic should have stayed with his country, no matter what." The second group would maintain, "He has to do what is right for him. The medals are awarded to individuals not nations."
No matter what position you might hold, Wild felt neglected and made his decisions. Just like many of our young folks make theirs. When someone doesn't feel appreciated, needed or wanted by their church, they will go to a place or a person that makes them feel they are important.
And what does that have to do with church membership or following the Savior?
Merely this: read through the Gospels and watch what Jesus says and does. He goes out of His way to reach out to the Samaritan woman, the lepers, a tax collector, and just about anyone else who had felt neglected. More than that, the Savior proclaims He had come to seek and save the lost.
In His quest to save humankind, Jesus dealt with people where they were ... not where He wanted them to be. From there, personally and not theoretically, He took them to repentance and faith.
To come to people where they are is something I wish I had thought of in the parish. If I had, maybe, just maybe, there might not have been so many confirmands whose only connection with their church was an old picture hanging in the church fellowship hall.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks my Savior has dealt with me in a caring, loving way. His life, death and resurrection were undertaken to save all of humanity, including me. Grant the Holy Spirit may use me to reach out to others where they are. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries