Pastor’s Corner, April 30, 2022

Today’s message is from Pastor Pam Sutherland of the St. Paul United Methodist Church & Fort Gibson United Methodist Church.

I love to watch shows that depict real people in competitions that require physical stamina like Survivor, American Ninja Warrior, and The Amazing Race. I imagine myself competing and even winning these competitions! After all, from the comfort of my recliner it doesn’t look all that hard. Some years back I told my oldest daughter that we should try to be cast on the Amazing Race. We both love to travel, have a good sense of direction, and can make decisions on the fly. I was sure we wouldn’t make any of the dumb mistakes some of the contestants on the show have made. My daughter, ever the pragmatic one said, “Mom, you can’t run, and I don’t run so why would you even think we have a chance?” She was right, of course. We are not runners. Never have been. She gets her aversion to running from me.

That mile we were supposed to run in school for the President’s Physical Fitness thing, nope. Never did it. Once when I was in my 20’s my supervisor made me join the company’s soccer team. I just stood in one place on the field and never moved. I was “let go” from the team after two games. Thirty years later a group of much younger women at work decided to run a 5K and convinced me to join them after promising to walk the race with me. They took off from the starting line like they were being chased by a bear and I didn’t see them again until several hours later when I finally dropped to the ground like a ragdoll at the finish line. 

In 1 Corinthians 9:24 the Apostle Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Wait, what? I’m supposed to run? Surely the Lord knows I can’t run? How am I supposed to get the “prize”? Of course Paul was writing to a Greek audience familiar with arena games. Corinth was the center of the Isthmian Games, second in prestige to the ancient Olympics. Paul tells us to train and compete as athletes who really want to win. Without effort, nothing can be won in a sporting event. In other words, you can’t just stand still on the field like I did, or walk half-heartedly to the finish line. 

To be a good athlete one must train their bodies for the competition. What’s more, an athlete must refuse things that, while they may be fine in themselves, will hinder the pursuit of their goal. So, what does that mean for us? We are in training, not for a perishable prize but for an imperishable crown, a heavenly reward that will never pass away. It’s not that we have to physically run a race, but that we should train and discipline ourselves with the same conviction as runners. We must avoid those things, those places that would get us off-track, hinder our race, or as in my case – our walk. Paul talks a lot about rewards for the way we live our Christian lives. How we run (walk, live) will be judged by Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 he writes: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Each of us has a responsibility to train and discipline ourselves to run this race effectively, with integrity, because one day we will stand before the One who gave His life for us, and we will give an account of our lives. So, let’s not stand in the field refusing to engage with the game, or limp to the finish line because we haven’t trained. Let’s give all our effort to running this race so that when we stand before the Lord, He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matt. 25:23)
Grace and peace as you run your race today and every day!

Pastor Pam

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