Toeing the Line
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. -Hebrews 12:1
There we were, a heaving mass approximately 40,000 strong, not including those who had come to witness the spectacle. Our presence evidenced by the shimmering radiance of our body heat and the misty cloud that lingered from the condensation of our collective breath. From a vantage point high above we appeared as one, but closer examination revealed a collective of individuals. Pressed in by the fences, there was only one way to go… forward!
We weren’t warriors heading into battle. Or protesters taking a stand against injustice. We were… marathoners! That unique breed of person who thinks it a good idea to push their body to its limits all to see just how quickly we can complete 26.2 miles.
In my younger running days, I would toe the line with competitors. I gave no thought to who these people were, what their lives were like. Did they have parents who loved them? How many meals a day did they get to eat? What challenges did they face in life? What joys? No, at that time they were simply another competitor. Someone I must be faster than on any given day if I were to achieve my goal. Some days I was better. Some days they were.
As I’ve gotten older and, admittedly, slower I’ve come to approach running differently. Sure, I still set personal goals. Some days I achieve them. Some I don’t. Where I used to line up against competitors, I now line up with fellow runners. Those of us who have done this sport for decades have seen its changes. What was once mostly a competitive gathering of athletic nerds (we didn’t play football for a reason!) has become a sport open and approachable to just about anyone. As the demographic has changed, the body has become more diverse. The transformation has been beautiful to witness. And when I toe the line now or just pass a fellow runner on the road, I wonder… What is their life like? Who are they? What are their joys? Their challenges? Their hopes? Their dreams? Just what is it they are carrying with them today?
Just like the cloud of witnesses that gather to journey 5k or 26.2 miles on any given weekend, the cloud of witnesses that we call the church, the body of Christ, is a gathering of unique individuals. Whether we toe the line or gather in pews, we’re all bringing the fullness of life with us. What are you carrying today? What are your challenges? What are your joys?
Let us be gracious to one another. Let us be kind to one another. As the Apostle Paul says, let us be mutually encouraged. We don’t often know what the person in the seat next to us, or the seat up front, is carrying with them to worship that day. What we do know is that there is power in prayer, grace in God, and freedom in Christ. So let us share these things with one another.
I hope to see you all this Sunday for worship at 10:00 a.m. under the pavilion as we celebrate Confirmation Sunday. As we gather, let us lay aside every weight, every sin, every assumption, and every judgment. Let us, instead, pray for the beauty of the collective cloud and every member of it.