Today many people across the UK who were not previously ‘into’ cycling are celebrating Bradley Wiggins’ achievement in winning the Tour de France cycle race. To me, the idea of completing one stage is amazing, but to complete the whole Tour and win it is an astonishing achievement. He rightly deserves all the plaudits that he is getting.
But he was part of a team. In cycle racing the rest of the team is as important as the winner. There are members of the Sky team (Bradley Wiggins’ team) whose sole purpose in the whole Tour was looking after Bradley Wiggins. They had to set a good pace; they had to chase down riders who tried to break away from the peleton (the main group of riders); they would drop back to the team car to get drinks and then cycle hard to get back to the front to deliver them; they would surround him so that he did not inadvertently collide with a rider from another team. Some of them cycled their hearts out and received no official recognition, no special jerseys, no cheering crowds. They did get a ‘well done’ from the team manager, a ‘thank you’ from Bradley Wiggins, but for the most part they are anonymous. Even the man who came second, Chris Froome, who is a team-mate of Bradley Wiggins and seems to have done an astonishing job to help him, sacrificing his own dream of winning, has received little attention. When the team wants a sprinter such as Mark Cavendish to win a stage they all work hard to ensure that the race pace is just how it should be and try to make sure he is in the best place to launch his sprint to the line: the rest cruise over the line anonymously, having done their job.
Yesterday morning in church we were looking at team work, in advance of some sporting event happening in London this year, commencing this Friday. We have been using ‘More Than Gold’ as the banner headline under which this series sits. I mentioned the Tour de France teams as an example, but did not have the time to go into detail. I think that if cycle racing had existed in Paul’s day he would have picked it up as a metaphor for church. Most of what we do to help one another goes un-noticed, un-recognised. Much of what we do is to bless or encourage someone else. Sometimes people remember to say ‘thank you’ or realise what has been done and encourage us, and those are cherished moments. In those moments we can hear God’s whisper of blessing to us too. And when the race is over we will hear our team manager say, “Well done.”
But we are not church for our own glory. We are not looking for popular acclaim. We are not expecting the admiration of others. Indeed, if we get that Jesus says that’s all the reward we’ll get. It’s hollow and it is transient. We serve to bless; we bless to encourage; we encourage to strengthen; we strengthen to enable others to serve…
Heaven help us (literally) if we ever lose sight of the tasks to which God has called us and seek fame and glory. Our calling is to serve the ultimate servant by serving others. As we do, we will be good free samples of him and others around us will see him in us.
Be blessed, be a blessing
Two old men were sat outside their house, sipping a glass of wine, as the Tour de France peleton hurtled past at 50 kilometres and hour.
One turned to the other and said, “If they’d left earlier they wouldn’t have to hurry now.”