As the Commonwealth Games have come to an end, so it is maybe fitting that our reading from Hebrews offers us the image of running a race with the crowds cheering us on in the stands. Those who have gone before us, now line the route to cheer us on, and that is wonderful but our eyes should be fixed on Jesus primarily, on the “end” of the race.
Jesus is the pioneer of our faith, the one who set off first, and the perfecter of our faith, the one who will complete it. Some of us feel a bit too old to be racing and running for real, but we understand something of perseverance, keeping going keeping going. And there is that phrase which links to some of the teaching we have been hearing from Luke in the past weeks – letting go “the sin that clings so closely”.
Facing up – we look to Jesus; looking within – we need to let go those close-clinging sins and attitudes and behaviours, which we might have got quite used to! Facing outwards – we continue with perseverance on the path God calls us, among the people God puts us with.
Our gospel reading reminds us however that this is not always easy. In this longer section of Luke, which began at the end of ch 9, Luke brings together teaching and parables which fill out what discipleship means for a follower of Jesus. There are some huge challenges, first from within – we have heard teaching and parables about greed of all kinds, about our human reluctance to help others; we are taught how to pray; last week was a call to readiness and not to be afraid; this week we are reminded that the world can be hostile, and that Jesus himself is a divisive figure, and so even among families following Jesus will bring division.
There is no getting round that this is difficult and uncomfortable teaching. Most of us want to feel secure and comfortable and affirmed in our faith and through our faith. Our security is found in Jesus, in his welcome, in his love, in his gift of life; Hebrews 11 reminds us of past people of faith; it possibly all feels a bit too “Boys Own”. Many Christians do live in more troubled places; we should be grateful that we can get to church in peace. Some of our congregation have hard races to run, it can feel like we are carrying a heavy load.
Christ came into the world, not least to shine light, but when we have been gifted with seeing that light, we will also find we are more acutely aware of how dark darkness is, in personal lives, in society, in the world. That painful privilege, I hope we can share, looking out for one another in love and prayer.
Rev’d Peter Reiss