Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finishing Well

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..." ~Hebrews 12:1

Today is All Saints Day, a day when we remember and honor the saints who have gone before us. In his welcome, Brad affirmed, "I am who I am today because of those who ran the race before me." The service, therefore, opened with an invitation to place photos of loved ones who were influential in our lives. A slide show also played simultaneously during Darlene's introit.

With the baptismal font centrally placed and a small host of Shannon kin present it was evident that young Kaitlyn was to be baptized this morning in a special ceremony.

After singing Holy, Holy, Holy an offering was taken and the baptism of Kaitlyn Elisabeth Shannon commenced. Ed Newman read from Luke 20:27-39 and after prayers from the congregation, Brad & Darlene sang "May Those Who Come Behind Us Find Us Faithful."

Finishing Well

Brad began by reading about the faith of Moses from Hebrews 11:23-28 and finishing with Hebrews 12:1-2. "Keep running, don't quit," he said. Though never having run a marathon himself, he has seen them and knows that the start is always fun, but finishing is not always so. The beginning is the pleasure phase. Runners spirits are high, and everyone is getting off on everyone else's energy.

There are several stages runners go through when running a marathon. Beginning with the high, there is the establishment of a pace... but ultimately at some point along the way, depending on how in shape the runner is, every runner hits the wall. The test of every runner is whether they keep running when they hit the wall.

"Finishing is hard work," Brad said. "Finishing well is glory." Then looking earnestly to the congregation Brad asked, "Will you run with me till the end? Will you finish well?"

At this point Brad detailed for us the story of Moses beginning with Exodus 5. It's the famous account where Moses has returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. "Let my people go." Pharaoh was not impressed with this Hebrew upstart, and proceeded to put a heavier burden on Moses' people, to make bricks without straw. Despite believing he was following the Lord's leading, Pharaoh refused to listen and his own people abandoned him.

Moses was tempted to quit.

Brad told the story of a speechwriter for Mayor Daley who wanted a raise, but whom Daley continued to dismiss, arguing that the speechwriter should be gratified just to have the privilege of being associated with such a great American hero. Daley was famous for not reading through his speeches before delivering them, and this speechwriter decided to give Daley a little surprise. Mayor Daley was delivering an important speech to a throng of veteran's stating, "and so today I want to unveil 17-point plan to care for the veterans of this country..." With all eyes on the mayor Daley turned the page and read, YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN NOW YOU GREAT AMERICAN HERO.

In one sense, that is Moses. He's been called, reluctantly obeyed and though persistent he eventually hits a wall. The difference is, unlike Mayor Daley here, Moses was not alone. And neither are we.

Brad stated that if we're going to finish the race there are two things we'll need.

1) Persistence in Prayer
Christian persistence begins in prayer and ends in prayer.
Brad asked, "What is your challenge?" He then asked us to draw a line in the sand and say, "I'm going to do what Jesus commands no matter what." Persist in prayer. Don't go back; don't give up. Persevere.
2) No On Runs Alone
We're surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
The profile of a marathoner is not just sleek athletic types. Some are cancer survivors, others are amputees, and some of these in wheel chairs. The one thing all have in common is that the keep running till they finish the race. Don't give up.
The service ended with Brad praying for us in all our various points of need, after which we were ushered into Communion.

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