October 2018 - Race With Perseverance  

Tim Clarke-Wood
...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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12:1-2

 
There is of course an individual element to a verse like this but it works just as well as a reflection for a church community.  We believe we are a church community don’t we?  We are a group of people called to commonality through the reality of Jesus at work in our lives.  There are ‘things’ that hinder us and there is sin that entangles us.  Those hindrances can lead us to moments when we withdraw from the task at hand.   We can find ourselves going through the motions of belonging to a church community without ever having to achieve, grow, or further this the ‘Kingdom of God’.  The ‘Kingdom’, which is nothing less than total social transformation of our local community into the image of a Jesus-filled community.  So we are called to throw of anything that stops this community of faith from running the race marked out for us – we are those called together to participate in God’s Kingdom movement. 
 
Before we moved from North Devon I was doing a lot of running to keep fit.  We lived in a beautiful part of the Devon Countryside and I had several routes that I regularly ran.  The different routes ranged from 4-8 miles in distance.  I chose the routes depending upon my desire and effort levels – this was an important consideration because there were so many hills!  Yet there was so much beauty to consider as I ran over rolling hills or along the coastline taking in the breadth and majesty of creation.  It was easy to choose to run in Devon because I knew the area and I knew what route to take.  
 
Since moving to Cambridge I haven’t been running.  Partly it’s because I don’t know where to run – everything is unfamiliar and the sea is nowhere in sight!  It has given me pause to remember the races I ran as a junior.  My distance was 10k as a junior and I remember a road race in Bexhill where every metre was clearly marked out and it was easy to run without having to think about where to go next.  You just get on and run – it was very simple. 
 
But I also remember competing in the Seaford 10K which was a part cross-country race.  That was a little tricky – not all of the route was clearly marked out.  There were a few stretches where you couldn’t see any ‘race officials’ telling you where to go.  Those moments caused a little panic for a runner like me.  I want clarity and clear direction when I run.  In that particular race you had to carry on with the path in front of you and sooner or later you would come across an official or a race marker that let you know you were on the right track.  Clearly, in that race, moving forward in uncertainty worked because I won the Under 16 category on that occasion! 
 
Well as church we go through different types of race too!  There are times when the race we run is very clearly marked out for us.  It is easy for us as ‘church’ – we know where we are going and we know what we are doing.  There are other times when things are little less clear – the route doesn’t seem to have any clear markers.  In those ‘races’ our job is to work on the ‘what next’ question prayerfully and united through Jesus Christ.  While we do that we are called to persevere and carry on running the race.  Sooner or later we will once again come across a clear marker or sign that we are on the right track.  I wonder what type of race we are in right now?  Perhaps a race like the Seaford 10K, where there is some part clearly marked out and other parts where we need to faithfully trust and persevere.
 
So as the community of faith that is St A’s my encouragement is to firmly keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus whilst we engage with each other and our local community.  Jesus is the way… he will guide and he will draw us along.  He is the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith.  This is a good reminder for us as we gather to worship as a church family and as we gather to seek the mind of Christ above and beyond any self-ambition or desire.  We must only go the way that Christ marks out for us.  Our job is to pray, to discern, and to obey.