I was up at Northwood Stadium the other day, and I saw some young people being coached in high jump. The coach had laid out some cones in a half circle, and was asking the athletes to run up to, and past, the high jump bar in a kind of “c” shape, without actually jumping. Then, when they’d got the hang of that, he started to get them jumping over the bar by flinging themselves backwards over it, arching their backs and legs. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’d never seen the high jump on the TV, I don’t know that I would have worked out that this is the best way to jump over a high jump bar. In fact, people had been jumping over bars for a long time before anybody did try this way of doing it.
In 1968 Dick Fosbury won the Olympic High Jump Gold Medal. As he did so he changed the sport of High Jumping forever, because he did so using the Fosbury Flop.
It was a game changing innovation. For centuries people had been jumping over bars to see who could go highest, but Fosbury, without changing the rules of sport, changed the heights that could be achieved. You had to be willing to take off and jump backwards, and land on your shoulders or head, but if you were up for it, athletes who changed their technique found that they could jump higher than they could previously.
What was it that allowed this to happen, this radical change in this sport? Firstly, there was a trail blazer who proved that it could be done, and showed people how to do it, there was a new champion. Secondly, it took advantage of new circumstances (the introduction of softer landing mats), and thirdly it required the athletes to step up to the new challenge of a different way of doing things.
In our reading from John’s telling of the good news of Jesus, we heard about something new that Jesus gave to his followers. Jesus gave them a new commandment. He told them to love one another as he had loved them.
But hold on a minute, how is this a new commandment?