Today's lectionary text comes to us from Hebrews chapter 12:1-3 which reads:
12:1 Therefore, 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,
12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
12:3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.It is Wednesday of Holy Week and today's text invites us to look up from our struggles and trials, and to capture a vision of something beautiful and life-giving.
The vision the author of Hebrews is creating here is couched in the language of a race, perhaps even a marathon.
The runners in this vision are none other than those who are reading the message---followers of Jesus in all spaces and times. And the moment we see here is one when the runners are making their way along a road that is lined by spectators.
This crowd of spectators is special. It's made up of people who have run the same race in the past. They know how hard it is to run it, and the perseverance it takes to continue when you feel as though you can't go on.
The author is essentially saying, "Those who have gone before us, are still with us. They are cheering us on. The memory of their presence should inspire us, motivate us to press on to the end."
And then the author shifts to the One who ultimately inspires our running the race in the first place---to Jesus, who endured so much for the sake of the world. We are called to consider our own hardship in light of the Passion that Jesus willingly entered into, so that we might have eternal hope.
Holy Week this year has taken on a whole new meaning for each of us. There's no easy path ahead of us. There's no gentle terrain in the race we are running. We are all in this together, tired though we are, and all too ready to be finished.
Jesus shows us what it means to focus on the joy ahead, despite the circumstances. The joy of knowing that whatever he endured was ultimately going to set all of Creation free is what kept Jesus moving, purposefully and resolutely toward Calvary.
There will be joy on the other side of all of this, but it won't be easy to get there. There will be restoration one day, but the journey toward restoration will challenge us. There will be healing and grace and peace in our near future, but it won't come without surrender.
So it is the vision of those who have run before us that keeps us running. It's the memories of those who gave of themselves sacrificially so we might live that fills us with deeper resolve.
We find ourselves remembering all those whose earthly presences have been replaced by the twin gifts of memory and hope, and their spiritual presence becomes a blessing, which lends itself to courage and perseverance.
We cannot quit running. We cannot let ourselves become weary in doing good. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of sitting this one out. We all have leg of this run to complete.
Let it be said of us by those who run this race after we are long gone that we ran it well, that we did our part. Let it be said of us that we set aside differences, let go of our distrust of one another and came together to do something extraordinary.
Let it be said of us that we embodied the kingdom of God while we ran. And that Jesus was made known. And that the world was brighter with His light because of us.
May this give you strength for today and all the days from now on. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.