Do You Wanna Go On A Run?

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 24.1-12

I have started something new recently, that is also something old. I’ve started running, again, another start. But this time I’m running with a friend.

He sent me an email a few weeks ago and asked me if I wanted to go for a run with him and even though I knew that this person was in much better shape than I, a foolish voice inside my head said, “Say yes!” So I typed in, “Yeah, let’s do it!” and I sent it back.
Now I okayed sharing this with all of you with him, and I don’t want to embarrass him, but his first name sounds a lot like mine, A LOT like mine, and his last name rhymes with “Ronson” and that’s all I’ll say.

I don’t want to get into any more detail than that but one of the reasons I mention this is because merely saying that I am running with this person raises my own status as a runner. People who know this runner, when they hear that I am working out with him, they say, “Oh wow! He’s a serious runner.” And I say, “Well, yeah!” Just being associated with him lifts me up.

But the truth is something a little less than impressive. Truth be told, his fitness level is up here and mine is somewhere well, down here. And too quickly on our first run, as I was wheezing and I looked over and he’s kind of cruising, I started to curse that foolish voice in my head that said yes. What were you thinking Paul? You could have conveniently lost that email! But alas. But on that first run, even though I was wheezing, I rejoiced – part of me rejoiced – just a little. I enjoyed the moments outside, the view of the mountains, and the conversation – what I could muster between breaths. At one point he asked me a question that required more than a grunt in return and then he looked at me and said, “Uh, that’s all right, you can answer later if you want.”

You see, I run with him on his recovery days. The days when he’s supposed to take it nice and easy and not supposed to push it too hard. And my program is very simple: I just try to survive. But together, with a lot of patience and forbearance on his part, and a little bit of suffering on my part, we come together. And for those few moments, we meet in the middle. And I rejoice.
You see, I’m challenged during these runs, I’m motivated to put on my running shoes when I would otherwise stay in bed. Or when I would otherwise sit in my chair and do something else. I’m motivated to get on the road and I am getting in better shape and I’m getting stronger, just a little, just because he’s pushing me. And for him, well, I give him plenty of rest. I make sure he doesn’t do too much on his recovery days. See, it works when we meet in the middle.

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that this is just like the good news of the cross. The good news confirmed by Easter. In the story of scripture, Jesus, the Living Word of God, is born into an earthly life. He lives in one of our bodies and struggles with our weakness and our brokenness. But even though he is fully human, his fitness level is way up here and he lives faithfully. And as he walks this earth he shows us how to love, I mean really love ourselves and our families and our neighbors.

And he can sprint. And in brief encounters, in those quick 5Ks, he heals and he feeds and he embraces others in those short runs. And he also does ultra-marathons because he’s teaching the disciples again and again and again what he’s all about. He’s in it for the long haul. And slowly, but surely his patience and forbearance pay off and he meets in the middle.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Patience–for the Lord is Near

    I don’t often read from the book of James in the New Testament.  It’s a relatively short book, with instructions for Christians ranging from words about poverty and riches to warnings against judgment upon others, and finally to instruction on patience in the midst of suffering.

    Patience in the midst of suffering…  I confess that doesn’t sound very appealing.

    Suffering comes in so many forms, and all of them are significant and legitimate. Suffering varies, of course, and as a person living in the United States of America, I’m often reluctant to claim that I suffer from anything egregious. I have food, shelter, companionship, and various freedoms. But we do suffer. We suffer from lots of things. Isolation, job loss, self-doubt, economic uncertainty, criticisms or judgments from others. Criticisms or judgments from ourselves. There is no doubt that in one way or another we are even suffering from this COVID-19 pandemic. I miss you all. Meg and I are your pastors. We should be seeing you each week and praying with you, rejoicing at the good things in life, and comforting each other amidst the difficult time in life.

    It’s impossible to determine when we might get to the end of this, but I feel like we are about to turn a corner thanks to the hard work and miraculous creativity of scientists who are making COVID-19 vaccinations possible. I was in Colorado for a few days at the end of January to visit my father again, and it was such a blessing to drive him to a hospital where we received his first vaccination shot. The next one will be available in a few more weeks, and only then will I feel more secure about him, and the rest of us, making it through this.

    While reading James recently I came across this passage in the fifth and final chapter.

    Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

    James is writing to a group of people in first century Palestine who are wondering when Christ will return. He suggests they be patient for the coming of the Lord. I hope they were able to be so, because here we are two thousand years later…awaiting that same return. But in the midst of our ‘waiting’ we’ve learned something else about the Kingdom of Heaven. We don’t have to wait for the return of Christ for Christ to be present in our lives and across this world. The Kingdom of God is at hand. We help bring it about. We help bring about that kingdom of love and grace and comfort.

    James goes on to suggest that just as a farmer waits for his or her crop to sprout up and grow with the rains and flourish for time of harvest, we too must be patient. He then instructs them to strengthen their hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Patience. It’s been a long time, but I hope and pray we are doing well with patience during this pandemic.

    I am still in shock that around 3-4,000 Americans are dying each day from COVID-19 or related complications. It is staggering. The number is higher around the world. How do we mourn such a time? I’m not exactly sure, but perhaps the season of Lent which begins on February 17th will give us some room to do just that.

    This all brings me back to one of the central purposes of us as a congregation—the faithful worship gathering that we hold each week. I thank you for your patience and support while we worship on YouTube and occasionally via Zoom. I’d rather be in person with you, but not at the risk of anyone’s health or life. It’s a bit strange to me, being the church in this ‘digital age’ forced upon us by quarantine and social distancing. We’re doing our best, and I hope we’re doing it well. But I’m having a struggle with patience as I dream about seeing you all again in person. Session continues to discuss future plans; we will continue with our current setup for now and pray for a day when vaccinations are widespread and transmission rates approach zero. Not only for the sake of our worship, but also because of the value we place upon the health and well-being of each person.

    I’d like to also thank you for the love and support you have extended to my family as we’ve grieved my mom’s death on December 28th. My father received many cards from you, and he sends his thanks; they were all very meaningful. As you know my parents regularly visited Logan and enjoyed worshiping the Lord with us. Dad says when we’re back in person for church you can be sure he’ll be around to worship with us again. He, along with all of us, can’t wait to hear the Praise Band, Chancel Choir, and Westminster Bell Choir live and in person. Once again, thank you all.

    As James pleaded to those early Christians living in very uncertain times, may we strengthen our hearts, for indeed the Lord is near.

    Peace be with you all,  

    Derek

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