Seeing God in Strange Places … Like Fencing?


Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

–1 Corinthians 4:5

Yes … I am actually watching Olympic fencing.  I know virtually nothing about the sport, beyond the fact that it has gone high-tech electronic.  I also had no idea that the US has the #1 foil fencer in the world on their Olympic team.  I didn’t know how the scoring system worked, and the red, green and white lights that are part of that system confuse me.  And I did not know that fencing is one of only five sports that have been featured in every single modern era Olympic Games….  However, I found myself watching two matches this afternoon, and would have watched more, if NBC hadn’t switched back to swimming coverage.  What caught my eye was a simple act of courtesy and sportsmanship.  When what appeared to be a simultaneous scoring thrust by both fencers occurred lighting up both competitor’s scoring lights, one fencer signaled to the judge that his opponent had actually scored the point … and it was scored as such.  I was shocked.  At the highest level of competition in this particular sport, a man (in this case) was more concerned with acknowledging an honestly won point, than in trying to argue the point for himself.  And it was not an isolated example.  I saw at least four or five other points awarded in the same way, each time from a different player.  Who says integrity and character is lost in the sporting world?  You might snicker and say to me, “Who cares, we’re talking about fencing, after all?”  But these persons are still the best Olympic athletes in the world in their sport, and have to be ridiculously competitive.  And yet … and yet … the courtesy remains a part of the experience, remarkably.

In a sporting world where arrogance and taunting, cheating and bragging, doping and deflated footballs are the daily fare, I found this moment odd … and charming … and refreshing.  It is the kind of thing I have come to love about Olympic competition, especially in these “niche” sports as they are called, where huge corporate dollars do not drive the sport.  It reminds me that I can still be surprised by the ways that God’s spirit of grace and goodness shows its face in the world.  Obviously, I have no idea whether any of these particular foil fencers were persons of faith.  But in the end it doesn’t matter.  Our great God is invested in the world is ways writ large and ways writ small.  God’s Spirit is found in things that are hidden from our eyes now, but which will be revealed in time.  I believe that God’s work even occurs through people who have no knowledge that they serve our living God.  As the Creator of the universe, do we dare place any limits upon the magnificent grace of our great God?

So in your prayers this week, why not ask for eyes to see God at work in places you might never imagine would be fertile ground for God’s Spirit.  Don’t just look in the usual places where churches and non-profits and families and Christian servants do the kind of yeoman work we expect of them, day in and day out.  Look in places that are not so obvious … places in which the light may be hidden from the world, but continues to shine.  Dark places where the light will not be extinguished.  Places where God is at work in mysterious ways.  Maybe even places like foil fencing … or badminton … or canoe slalom.

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Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.

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