The modern Olympic tradition of athletes carrying a torch and passing it between them traces its roots back to ancient Greece. For the Greeks, fire was sacred and communicated something divine. The athletes were keepers or guardians of the flame and took great care to hand it on to the next runner still burning brightly.
It’s a great metaphor for life too. All of us, in different ways are torch-bearers charged with the responsibility of passing on the torch to the next runner. Which should make us pause and reflect on who we are handing our torch to? Who are we investing in? Who is receiving the benefit of our wisdom? We may be tempted to think about this primarily in terms of family, but torch-passing extends beyond family ties and when our children are all grown up, we still have the privilege and responsibility of investing in others.
John Ortberg preached a sermon this last week on the subject of passing the torch. He used as his text the story of the great prophet Elijah who was instructed to find and anoint his successor, Elisha. It’s a wonderful account (from 1 Kings 19ff) of an incredible relationship which develops between these two men as the torch is successfully passed between them. Ortberg makes the sobering observation of how critical this process is for the church, noting that “the church is always one generation away from extinction”.
It can be hard, frustrating work though. Sometimes the recipients of the torch have more interesting things to do :) In these times, Ortberg encourages torch-bearers to be faithful - “sometimes”, he says “bearing the torch begins with just showing up”.
Who are you and I investing in this week? To whom are we passing the torch in our families, our church, our communities? May God bless you as you press on with this vital task!
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