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Thursday, February 16, 2017

02122017 Septuagesima Sunday - We are to run so we may win for Christ!

February 12, 2017
We are to run so we may win for Christ.
This morning we begin a journey that has been celebrated since and before the time of Martin Luther.  We begin the Sunday’s that lead up to the beginning of Lent.  Simply these Sunday’s are known as the Gesima Sundays.  Next week, our service will revolve around these Sunday’s and tell the story of their connection with the church, the songs that relay the sole reason for our worship, Jesus Christ and how they impact us today.

But today on the first Sunday, known as Septuagesima, our focus will be Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  Paul begins our reading not with biblical wisdom, but a simple question of all things a ‘sports event’.  Similar to the movies “Chariots of Fire”, “Broken” or others that portray ’physical prowess’, Paul invokes a ‘race analogy’, but Paul connects it clearly to a prize.

When we receive a prize, whether in a spelling bee, a trophy for athletic prowess or a ring like the Patriots will receive for winning the Super Bowl, it is a ‘token’ of the accomplishment.  However, for Paul he clearly understands the discipline it takes to attain the prize.  Paul writes, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection”.  Paul knows what it is like to prepare for races, but ironically, all Paul is doing is relating to the people of Corinth who receive this letter with experiences they are familiar with not only as Roman Citizens, but this analogy is easily understood by we who gather here today.

However, Paul’s intent isn’t about gaining money for the coffers in Jerusalem.  It isn’t about controlling the actions of the people in Corinth, Paul’s sole intent is to point to what will save, sustain and securely change their eternal destination.  Paul’s intent is to point to a man he encountered on the road to Emmaus.  Paul is pointing to none other than the Rock Jesus Christ.

Our society asks, of what consequence is this Rock, Jesus Christ  for us today?  It is claimed no one has seen the Rock for 2000 years.  The Roman and the Jewish world doubted His resurrection as the movie “Risen” portrayed.  People feared what they could not believe, explain nor understand.  Yet clearly, Paul agreed at one point about this ‘Rock’ by hunting down the people who claimed to be Christians.  But on the road to Emmaus, Paul was changed.  No further proof of Paul’s change needs to be looked for than this passage we have read this morning.

The Rock, Jesus Christ, that Paul is pointing to for the Romans and for us today is the same Man that he met on the road to Emmaus.  This Rock, Jesus Christ is the same man Whom we celebrated His birth in a lowly manger in Bethlehem not two months ago.  This Man, this Rock, Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and Who we have been baptized into, His life, His death, but especially His resurrection.

This Man, this Rock, Jesus Christ not only is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Our Rock Jesus Christ comes to offer us today eternal life.  Jesus Christ ran the race and now offers we His followers from our altar below the window with His likeness, His precious Body and Blood.  We are offered the greatest offer of grace from Him for us that gives us eternal life.  And all that He asks us to do is ‘discipline our bodies and bring them into subjection to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ’.  For when we bring our bodies into subjection, we then have the greatest opportunity.  We as disciples of Jesus Christ, “We are to run so we may win for Christ”.

God, through His Son, Jesus Christ is calling us to run the race of perseverance, in the face of adversity, against that which is evil and does not have the Gospel at its center and run the race so we can ‘win for Christ’.  Does this mean we earn eternal life?  By no means, eternal life is the gift of God offered to all of mankind out of God’s great love for us.  We are called by God to ‘run this race’ so that God may be Glorified and God may truly work through us so others not only can hear the Gospel of salvation of what Jesus Christ did on Calvary, but truly understand that God’s gift of grace is freely given for all, independent of our abilities, but fully dependent upon God and His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Recently, I saw a video on Facebook that epitomized running a race of a young boy with Cerebral Palsy.  The teacher of the class said the boy didn’t have to run, but he would have nothing of it.  Lining up with his class, he began the race.  Quickly this young boy was left in the dust.  All of the kids had finished the race, but this young boy, continued on.  As he neared the half way point the teacher went to offer him the opportunity to stop.  But again he would not.  So the teacher ran along side of him cheering him on.  With every step, classmates of his joined this procession and when he finally came to the finish line, the entire class was cheering him on giving him encouragement and praise.

Today, Paul, through his letter to the Corinthians, is encouraging each of us to run the race of our lives in order to receive the prize of eternal life.  It is my prayer that we not only encourage one another, but run this race in order to inspire one another so that “We are to run so we may win for Christ” Who is our Rock and our Beautiful Savior.  AMEN.

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