April 2, 2020
One of my favorite Bible passages is recorded in Hebrews, chapter 12,
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to run with perseverance the race that is set before us. And this race that we’re running, it’s not a sprint. This awful virus is going to be with us for some time, and it’s going to cause a lot of pain. This race that is set before us; it’s going to be a marathon.
So, let me tell you about the best way to run a marathon. I mean it’s pretty obvious. You run a marathon by taking one step at a time. One lap at a time. One mile at a time. Running a marathon is nothing more than a simple set of habits, rituals, and disciplines, that you do again, and again, and again.
Now, I love to run. I ran in high school and in college, but then took about 25 years off to get an education, raise a family, and lead a parish. A few years back, I picked it up again. On January 1, in the year of our Lord, 2013, I started walking. Two months later, my walking turned to hiking, and two months after that, my hiking turned to jogging. And when I started jogging, I thought I was going to die. Every muscle in my body screamed for me to stop. So, I set small goals and established little habits. Just make it to the next telephone pole, and then the next, and then the next. One step at a time. One lap at a time. One mile at a time.
In the Fall of that year, I ran a 5k. That 5k grew into a 10k, followed by a 15k, which was followed by a half. Half marathons are now my favorite races to run. 13.1 miles. Or another way to measure it, is two 5 mile runs and a 5k.
So, I’ve got this course that I Iove to run. It’s an out and back, and it’s close to where I live. One mile down the Pemberville trail. Two miles out into the country. A half a mile through a lonely township cemetery, and then back. It’s a 5-mile run, and I do it again, and again, and again. I run it in the rain. I run it in the snow. I run it in the wind. And I run it in the heat of the day. 5-mile run. 5-mile run. 5-mile run.
So, that when race day comes, I can run with perseverance the race that is set before me. Because a half marathon, that’s nothing but two 5 mile runs and a 5k. And a marathon is measured best when you break it into five 5 mile runs and a .2.
So, when you’re running a race of perseverance, like we’re now running, focus on the little things. Focus on the small steps. Focus on the daily habits, and the daily rituals, and the daily disciplines. And then lead from out of that place. Because those habits, and rituals, and disciplines, they make us strong. And we need your strength, because this race is going to be long, and it’s going to take everything we’ve got to give. This is not a sprint; this is going to be a marathon.
“And, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…
And that last part is just as important as the first part, because when we run, we never run alone. We run with Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. The crucified and risen one… The crucified and risen one, who with that great cloud of witnesses, surrounds us, and encourages us, and cheers us on. And even though I run alone, I know that I am never alone. For all those who have run before me, run with me. And there is always Jesus.
And in the end, I’ve learned, that it’s never about winning or losing. It’s about how many people you can inspire to run the race with you. One step at a time. One lap at a time. One mile at a time.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.