“The Sprinter” Charles Albert Lopez. Cast 1907. Public Domain.
"Jogging is very beneficial. It's good for your legs and your feet. It's also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed." Charles Schulz
Generally, Biblical scholars see the book of Hebrews as a selection of sermons written to encourage a community that was undergoing some form of oppressive state-sponsored persecution. Physical violence forced evictions, and imprisonment of Jews and Jewish Christians was widespread in the late first century CE. Over time, this book of encouraging sermons was passed along to other distressed communities all over the eastern Mediterranean.
A new sermon about maintaining fidelity and endurance during difficult times begins in chapter 11, verse 1, and runs to chapter 12, verse 17. Chapter 11 provides examples of faithful individuals from the Scriptures. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rehab, and many others make the cut. These folks are seen as faithful because they exemplified endurance through hardship, loss, abuse, disaster.
Endurance continues to be the theme in chapter 12, as the author uses running as a metaphor for faithful endurance.
“Get rid of the weights that would slow us down and run the race well.”
It’s a little stilly that the Greek word for “race” here is agōn, which refers to any athletic event, but most commonly a competitive footrace. It’s the root of our word “agony,” which will resonate with many – running is some form of agony. But the idea here is simple enough: It’s even more challenging to run a race when we are weighed down by things we can shed.
The weight and sin that “just won’t let go” (CEV) is not specified in the original Greek. The “weight” may refer to body fat on runners, clothing that encumbers or merely a heavy load. “Sin” is also generic and relates to detrimental lifestyle choices. For competitive runners, it might be a poor diet, failing to address an injury or insufficient training.
Today's lesson is a good message for us as we experience the continued challenges of the pandemic. While our challenge is unique in many ways, people throughout the centuries have experienced unique challenges and endured. We have examples of folks in our lives that have relied on their faith to weather grief, hardship, and disaster. We do well to remember those folks when we face difficult times and draw inspiration.
Difficult times also require us to be well prepared. It’s time to let go of those things that are slowing us down or making a hard time even harder. What weighty responsibilities, costs, or worries can we put down for the time being? Are their practices that we need to amend in this interim so we can be a little lighter on our feet?