Epistle: Hebrews 11:29--12:2
29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. 32And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. 12:1Therefore, 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, 2looking 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.
Run the race that is set before us. Know this, the victory is already ours.
When they began working on the movie Ben Hur, director Cecil B. DeMille talked to Charlton Heston--the star of the movie--about the all-important chariot race at the end. He decided Heston should actually learn to drive the chariot himself, rather than just using a stunt double. Heston agreed to take chariot-driving lessons to make the movie as authentic as possible.
Learning to drive a chariot with horses four abreast, however, was no small matter. After extensive work and days of practice, Heston returned to the movie set and reported to DeMille.
"I think I can drive the chariot all right, Cecil," said Heston, "but I'm not at all sure I can actually win the race."
Smiling slightly, DeMille said, "Heston, you just stay in the race, and I'll make sure you win."
Those are the words of God to every one of us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you just stay in the race, and I'll make sure you win." (King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com)
Yesterday. We can’t change the past. Rejoice for we are forgiven.
We have today. Rejoice, for this new day is a gift. As someone once said, that is why it is call the PRESENT!
As we run the race, we do it knowing that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Those who have gone before us, and those who worship right next to us. For we are a gathering of witnesses who gather to be nourished and nurtured and strengthened to serve. Rejoice for we have a place we can gather together.
HERE is a place where the good news is shared.
Here are offered the gifts that only God can give – healing, wholeness, peace.
In the midst of the chaos of the world, and the cacophony of sounds and shouting and bitterness and pain, here is a place where God says, come to me, you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and will give you rest.
Let us pray: Almighty God, thank you for helping us win the race. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.