Yesterday Great Britain won a medal for men's gymnastics, something that had not happened for the greater part of a century. As Matt Baker continually reminded us, the last time the men had achieved anything like this the event included rope climbing and drill. He also spoke of his own experiences as a young man who was ridiculed for doing gymnastics, widely perceived as a girlie activity.
For almost a century, then, in gym clubs across the UK, boys have trained and practised and struggled to achieve the best they could, even though Olympic competition was never going to happen, even though winning was a forlorn hope. Quietly they plugged away; generations of male gymnasts we have never heard of because they never won any accolade. And now, all that work finds it fulfilment, as this generation of young men finally achieve the impossible dream. Yes, they were amazing to watch, and yes they utterly deserve the medals, but it's only possible because in the 1930s and 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s and 80 and 90s people kept on keeping on, determined that gymnastics was worthwhile, rather than giving up in despair. I know this isn't the only sport where this is the case, but it serves as an exemplar.
And I can't help but feel there's a lesson for the church in there somewhere.