|Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 13, 2013||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 6, 2013||Proper 22, Year C||Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10|
|Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 29, 2013||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
|Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 22, 2013||Proper 20, Year C||Luke 16:1-13|
|Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 15, 2013||Proper 19, Year C||Exodus 32:7-14, Luke 15: 1-10|
|Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 8, 2013||Proper 18, Year C||Luke 14:25-33|
|Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 1, 2013||Proper 17, Year C||Sirach 10:12-18, Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14:1, 7-14|
|Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||August 25, 2013||Proper 16, Year C||Isaiah 58:9b-14;Psalm 103:1-8;Hebrews 12:18-29;Luke 13:10-17|
|➤Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||August 18, 2013||Proper 15, Year C||Hebrews 11:29-12:2|
|Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||August 11, 2013||Proper 14, Year C||Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40|
|Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||August 4, 2013||Proper 13, Year C||Colossians 3:1-17|
|Ninth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||July 21, 2013||Proper 11, Year C||Genesis 18:1-10a, Colossians 1:15-28, Luke 10:38-42|
|Tenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||July 21, 2013||Proper 12, Year C||Luke 11:1-13|
|Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||July 14, 2013||Proper 10, Year C||Luke 10:25-37, Deuteronomy 30:9-14|
|Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||July 7, 2013||Proper 9, Year C||Isaiah 66:10-14, Luke 10:1-11, 16-20|
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:August 18, 2013
Scripture: Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 15, Year C
Curt Miller was dying and the family was gathered around his bedside. One of his granddaughters shared a dream that she’d had the night before.
A huge stadium was packed with a cheering crowd, waiting for the baseball game to begin. Many in the crowd were people that Curt had cared for during his lifetime. The man at the microphone, who was keeping the crowd entertained until the game began, was Curt’s son-in-law, who had died only the year before. Large angelic beings lined the way to the stadium through which the team would run onto the field, and everyone was cheering for Curt, who was going to be captain of the team. The game couldn’t begin until he got there.
I love this dream because it’s a great example of the cloud of witnesses that we heard about in our reading today from Hebrews.
“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.”
To think of ourselves running a race is a challenging way to look at our journeys as Christians through this lifetime, and the writer of Hebrews makes some important points about this race that I’d like to share with you today.
Hebrews is a thirteen chapter sermon, written to Christians who were discouraged, overworked and worn out, Christians who were so tired and disillusioned that they were ready to walk out the door that Sunday and not bother to come back—to disappear quietly into their exhaustion. They were tired of running their races through life as Christians.
And so the writer of Hebrews wants to give these people a reason to keep running the race with perseverance.
First of all, he tells them to lay aside every weight and the sin that clings to them so closely. And then he reminds them who is leading the race—who we are to keep our eyes on while we are running this race—Jesus Christ himself
–and today in the gospel we see the determination of Jesus to run his race to the bitter end, in spite of the dissension and discord he was causing—his preaching and living out what he believed about the kingdom of God was causing increasing tension with the opposition—but Jesus, instead of becoming discouraged, tired, and disillusioned, became more determined than ever to carry out his mission, even while knowing that division would have to take place before the peace of God could ever become a reality—
We also find this dynamic in the book of Revelation, where the Lamb who has been slain is the one who defeats evil so that ultimately peace and the heavenly city can come down out of heaven to earth—but back to Hebrews—
Jesus, the one who is determined to run this race, is the one we are to follow.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus suffered in his time here with us—“who for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross.”
Jesus experienced deep suffering, especially the suffering he did on the cross, and we can be sure that God intimately knows the depths of the suffering that we endure during our lifetimes as we run our races.
If you read on in Hebrews, the writer compares some of the suffering that we do in our lives to the suffering that children experience when they are disciplined by their parents—discipline applied in order that children can grow up into responsible adults. We’ve all experienced that sort of suffering.
Another kind of suffering comes to us in hurtful and unexplainable events—last week we blessed the pregnancy of Kelly and Dominic Paterino. This week we pray for their unborn child who has already passed into eternal life.
This sort of unexplainable suffering can only be endured by knowing that God has suffered with us and for us through Jesus’ death on the cross.
But suffering of any sort, as Thomas Long says, these “seasons of sorrow” in our lives, whether disciplinary or just downright undeserved, can help us develop good, strong and true muscles that can come to our aid when we’re exhausted—and these muscles grow in us as we run in the race that Jesus is leading.
So we run this race, following in the steps of Jesus, who has enduring suffering and understands our own suffering.
And then the writer of Hebrews makes his second encouraging point.
Jesus, by running his race, and enduring his suffering on the cross, at last came into a place of eternal joy—and he ran this race for the sake of the joy that was set before him.
This place of eternal joy is the heavenly city I talked about in last week’s sermon—God’s city of light, where Jesus will shelter us, where there is no more death, no more hunger or thirst, where the Lamb at the center of throne will be our shepherd, and he will guide us to the springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
And when we run our races with perseverance through this lifetime, with Jesus as our leader, and with our eyes on our ultimate destination, we get to experience little snatches here and now, of what our eternal lives will be,
as we pursue peace with everyone along the way, when we have compassion for those who are discouraged and lift them up, when we help others around us obtain the grace of God as we run this race.
So as we run our races, surrounded by the cloud of heavenly witnesses cheering us on, the ones who have already finished the race, the writer of Hebrews reminds us to keep our eyes on Jesus, our leader, to feel him grasp our hands in his and pull us along when we’re tired and discouraged, as he’s done for all who have run before us.
This race isn’t easy. Some of this race is uphill, and across rocky terrain, and the race can be discouraging, so I leave you with this exhortation from the writer of Hebrews, which we find a little further on– Chapter 12, verse 12.
“Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”
“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, then let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, with Jesus as our leader, and eternal joy as our destination.