The obituaries that are printed in national newspapers provide a brief summary of a person’s life. How did the person spend their life? What were their main priorities and achievements? It is a good for each of us to ask ourselves what we are doing with the precious life God has given us? I recently read a short account of the life of Michael Lapage, who died in July at the age of 94. His father was the vicar of Shaftesbury and Michael went to Monkton Coombe School, near Bath, where he became an accomplished rower.
In 1942 Michael left school and, deferring his place at Selwyn College, Cambridge, volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm. After training he joined 807 Naval Air Squadron and flew Seafire planes from the escort carrier Hunter. Later he flew reconnaissance and air-to-ground strafing missions during the Allied landings in southern France. Towards the end of the war he was deployed to the Far East where he was nearly shot down while on patrol off the coast of Malaya. The tailpiece of his plane was seriously damaged, but he managed to get back safely to his carrier. Michael knew that he could easily have lost his life that day.
After the war was over, Michael went to Cambridge University and was a member of the crew that won the 1948 Boat Race. That same year he rowed for Britain in the 1948 Olympic Games in London and won a silver medal. In 1950 he won a bronze medal in the, then, Empire Games. In 2012, at the age of 88, he carried the Olympic torch in the relay for the 2012 London Olympic Games!
After leaving university Michael taught at Winchester College until, in the late 1950s, he went to Kenya to serve as a missionary. He was a schools’ inspector during the Mau Mau uprising and was later ordained in Kenya as a minister of the Gospel. Michael’s Christian faith, and the experience of nearly being shot down in 1945, convinced him that he had been “saved to serve”.
Michael’s life was shaped partly by the challenges of the days through which he lived but mainly by his love for his saviour Jesus Christ. He knew that Jesus came from heaven to this earth not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. So Michael gladly dedicated his life to serving others and to telling them the good news about Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for us.
The Olympic Torch Relay is making its way around the British Isles. 8000 torch bearers are carrying the Olympic Flame to 1019 communities. Some torch bearers are famous, others have been chosen because of their bravery in the face of adversity or their service to others. Most of the torch bearers are young people, some as young as 12. The flame was ignited from the rays of the sun at Olympia in Greece, the site of the ancient Olympics. The Torch Relay will end on the day of the opening ceremony when the flame is lit in the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium, where it will burn until the closing ceremony.
The motto of the modern Olympic Games is “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” In every Olympics new world records are set as athletes achieve success. The Games demonstrate what can be accomplished by people who are single-minded and dedicated. The Paralympic Games show this in a very special way. The hope is that this Olympic Games will inspire a new generation of young people in Britain and the world and bring a new spirit of hope to us all.
The Olympic Games will be a brief interlude in our lives, an opportunity to focus on human achievements rather than human failures. I remember hearing Jack Dain, Bishop of Sydney, say that when he read his daily newspaper he always started with the back page, to see what people had achieved before turning to the front pages to see their failures. Today our failures are great and potentially very serious. All of us, young and old, need to find real and lasting hope.
The apostle Paul speaks of life as being like a race. We are all running in the race. Like any good athlete we need to keep our ultimate goal before us. Near the end of his life Paul wrote, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Not many have the honour of competing in the Olympic Games, but all of us can live our lives in loving fellowship with Jesus Christ who guarantees us a safe and happy arrival in heaven.