Finishing the Race

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ –

This past Wednesday was a race.  You know the kind of day.  My calendar was booked solid; one meeting after another and that doesn’t account for the work that needed done.

Confirmation is just a few weeks away and I had to check and double check the progression of the 8th graders.  Did they complete their essay?  Did they pass all three exams with 70% or higher? Did they complete the quizzes with 90% or higher? Did they finish enough sermon summaries? Did they earn enough confirmation points?  Is their banner completed?

We had mid-week Bible study, Lunch Bunch, and the afternoon Lenten Service.  Vicar was off to two nursing homes to lead worship services, and I was off to the grocery store.  Yes, the grocery store.

I needed to purchase supplies and food for the annual 8th grade Seder Meal.  Each year, as the 8th graders study the Sacrament of the Altar, there is one evening set aside for the Seder Meal.  With Communion ware across the table and the Altar Candles lit upon the table we have our meal.  It’s the meal in which our Lord institutes the Lord’s Supper, where he broke the bread and where he gave his blood to drink.  On this evening the students learn and experience the connections between the Passover meal and Holy Communion.  They also get to try unconsecrated Eucharist Bread and Communion Wine.  Soon they will have it consecrated, where it is the true body and blood of Christ.

The Passover meal on the night before Jesus was crucified was a bittersweet event.  The communion between Jesus and his disciples was always life-giving to them, but our Lord must have had a heavy heart as he shared with them his body and blood and knelt to wash their feet.  The race he had been running was soon to be over, but the most arduous part still lay ahead.

Following the meal, Jesus took his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane where he poured out his heart to his Father.  “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done,” he prayed, “and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:42, 44).  The anguish Jesus experienced is vividly described by the Gospel writer.  But Jesus never wavered.  Resolutely, he ran the race and, when it was over, he proclaimed it over: “It is finished!” he cried.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  He didn’t talk about winning the race – Jesus has already done that for us.  He wrote about finishing the race.  Ever believer is involved in this race, and each of us by finishing gets the prize.

So I will keep running, and may each of us be faithful in the race that God has given us to run!

Lenten Blessings, Pastor Hartwig