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We encourage you to use the following piece for family devotions this week.

Text: Matthew 5:1-12

I love the Olympics.

I have fond memories of watching Katarina Witt figure skate for Germany, of Americans like Kelly McCormick diving, Carl Lewis running, and the Dream Team dominating the basketball court in 1992, the first year that NBA players were allowed to compete in the Olympic games.

Of particular interest to me this year are two of the female boxers — Claressa Shields and Mikaela Mayer — two women with Michigan connections. Claressa grew up in Flint, Michigan. In 2012, she became the first American woman to take home gold for boxing. T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold a documentary about Claressa recently aired on PBS. Mikaela is from Los Angeles, but is currently a student at Northern Michigan University.

Events like the Olympics, stories of the underdogs who, through perseverance and hard work earn victory, capture our attention. They inspire us. They make us believe that there is an order to the world, and order where hard work is appreciated and rewarded. There is nothing like seeing someone at the top of their sport.

The Beatitudes of Jesus paint a different picture than what we see at the Olympics. They tell us that those who least deserve it will receive the gold. Those who leave with nothing will find themselves full. And those who work hard work will receive no more than those who do not. In fact, Jesus tells us that we do not need Olympic-sized faith to get into heaven, only faith the size of a mustard seed.

Those who come in last place at the Olympics have often sacrificed just as much, worked just as hard, and despite all of their hard work and commitment, go home empty handed. Sheer willpower could not get them a medal. In a similar way, all of our hard work and willpower will not earn us a place in heaven, because places in heaven are not earned. They are gifts.

All that we need to find belonging and the reward of salvation in Christ is just the smallest amount of faith — faith planted in us by God, faith nourished and grown through the Holy Spirit, faith lived out in the Church. This doesn’t fit the worldly understanding of how things work, but it is much more encouraging to know that the tiniest amount of faith, given by God, has the potential to make an incredible impact.

I will continue to root for medals for the underdogs at the Olympics this week. But even when the underdogs place near the end of the pack, I know that if they have faith, they do not walk away empty. Because when people of faith find themselves empty, God fills us. And in God’s community, the last will be first.

Questions for conversation:

  • What have been some of your favorite moments in the Olympics, either this year or in years past?
  • How have you seen God reflected by Olympic athletes?
  • How can we reflect our faith to those around us this week?

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