Hebrews 12: 1,2 Reads as follows:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,[a] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of[b] the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Last week Bethel celebrated its 125th anniversary. When I put together the worship service I had the great gift of people sending me comments on how to describe Bethel. Over and over again I heard words like “inclusion” “family” “loving” and “resilient”. Last night at UCW I was witness to this group of hard-working people give away ¾ of the money they’ve earned back into the community – to organizations such as Food Banks, the Snow Suit fund and Mental Health Services. The last ¼ not given away was simply to float the next fundraiser so that they could earn more funds to, yes, give even more away. Inclusion and Love in action. Bethel sees itself as these characteristics and Bethel continually lives into these qualities.
Last night, as I was driving home after UCW I turned on my radio to CBC to listen to the American Election results. As of the writing of this blog, the results are simply to close to declare a winner. Whomever wins this election will have a long and difficult ‘race’ before them – a race to run a country deeply divided on issues of diversity and gender equality and with vastly differing ideas around what it means to be ‘great’ and to have ‘freedom’. All of this while Covid-19 is ravaging the population and accentuating the differences in accessing health-care.
But before we get all smug and happy that we are Canadians with access to universal health-care, I need to remind you that we are in the middle of hearing about the murder trial of the young man who threw a trailer-hitch at an Indigenous woman and killed her, and at the trial it was made known that this was a ‘practice’ or a ‘game’ in the community that these people lived in; that white people would throw garbage and random objects at Indigenous people for no reason except that they could and they thought it was funny. Our universal health-care is also not exactly universal, is it. This has been especially highlighted with Covid-19 and the access to care in Long-Term-Care facilities. Just this morning I heard of a young man, living with MS and in a long-term care facility who has not had a bath in a month because there simply isn’t the support for him to receive the regular care he needs.
There is a race that our world seems to be running that is leading to a place of destruction. And we are called to run a different race: the race where all are included, all are counted as family, and that we will push through hardship by being more inclusive and more generous rather than by hanging on to our ‘stuff’ and our finances and hoarding our resources. We have the gift of a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ having shown us how to run this race. Our faith history gives us names like Abel, Enoch and Noah, Abraham, Moses and David; people with great flaws but a clear understanding of what it means to be God’s people. Our church history gives us stories of people who gathered in worship and then went to serve the world; with problems of course, and divisions on what it meant to be faithful but, in the end have shown us a route to generosity and resilience. Our personal histories have people all along who have influenced us to be and to act in ways where Jesus was the example and model of the race that we needed to run – people like my grandmother, previous pastors, and the saints of the church who nurtured me to where I am now.
We have a hard run ahead of us, dear Bethel Friends. A hard run because we are running a route that is completely different from the world around us. Our route is one that values justice and mercy over financial stability, and Love as the guiding value for us all. But here’s what I can tell you; we have our ‘Great Cloud of Witnesses’ that have shown us the route, and we have Jesus in front of us reminding us of where we need to go – the route of self-sacrifice and joy.
We can do this my friends. We have got what it takes. And that has been promised to us by God.
Blessings today, and remember you are Loved,