Our essential mission is unchanged (and “Happy 93rd birthday, Dad!”)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2

– happy birthday, dad!

Tuesday, July 27. This passage from Hebrews 12 is the “verse of the day” from BibleGateway.com. The words are very appropriate and relevant for so much that defines this week (and I’m not even thinking about the Olympics).

First, it is my dad’s birthday; that’s birthday number 93. Talk about running with endurance! And I can’t help but think about the idea of “stripping off every weight that slows us down.” At 93 there is just about nothing material that dad wants, or needs, or is even interested in. What counts is life itself, and relationships. And the understanding of what “life” means, and how relationships are valued, has shifted its balance more toward eternity.

The race is ongoing:

Then, the looming reality of August 1 (the end of Rebekah’s active ministry as the leader of a particular church) is so much a part of how I read the Hebrews scripture.

This leg of the race is over, yes, but we will keep our eyes on Jesus, because the essential calling we have always understood is still very much intact.

Rebekah came “under care” (preparation for ministry) of her Presbytery in Central Florida before we were married, when we were still in school. I attended one of the milestone events, held at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando. It was a huge sanctuary, and I asked Rebekah – in jest – “Could you ever imagine preaching in a church this big?”

She didn’t miss a beat. “Yes, I can,” she said, “absolutely. In fact I can imagine being the pastor of a church like this!” (Their history would likely have played out a little differently if she had!) And of course over the years she has preached in bigger venues and to greater crowds. That moment was forty-three years ago, and we are still very much, “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

The weight that slows us down:

At the same time, a little bit like my dad, we are in the process of “stripping off every weight that slows us down…” Various translations refer to this weight as, “extra baggage,” “every impediment,” “every burden,” “everything that gets in the way,” “holds us back,” “entangles/ensnares us.”

I have never (we have never) before felt so unattached to our “stuff.” This is not so much – like organizing guru Marie Kondo – asking if something still brings us joy, then thanking if for its service and letting it go. This is more about looking at our ongoing commitment to follow Jesus, and asking what may be getting in the way of that mission.

– author Derek Maul

Our mission is unchanged – it remains that of so filling our lives with light and love that the Good News cannot help but spill out and over into the lives of others. August 1 is just the end of this leg of the race.

How can we know what comes next? Rebekah and I will do this by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. – DEREK

Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and He is the One Who makes it perfect. – Hebrews 12:2 (NLV)

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