On New Year's morning, I shared with the congregation my plan to run a half-marathon the following Saturday. You have to understand this was a big deal for me-I am not a natural runner, in fact I doubt I had run more than a continuous mile since college (unless you count an elliptical machine as "running"). It was part of a commitment that I'd made the year before with Jamalyn, and by sharing my plans with the congregation, I felt like I was including you all in my covenant. I knew when I returned the following week, many would ask me how the half-marathon went, and I wanted to be able to say I kept my promise and finished my race.
Unfortunately that did not happen. The half-marathon was cancelled due to heavy thunderstorms and hail in the area that morning. At the time I felt some mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because I had been preparing for the race for over six months. Relief because I had still been pretty anxious about my ability to complete it. Thankfully, there was an option to defer my participation to the next half-marathon that Disney offered. Turns out that was the Sunday after Easter.
In retrospect, this has been the best possible outcome. If I'm honest, I'm not sure I would have kept up my running, especially in the cold, wet, winter months. By moving the finish line, so to speak, it gave extra motivation to make my change "stick" (it helped that we were doing a sermon series by the same title during that time!). Now I'm going down for take two, and the thing is, I'm far less anxious about this race than I was in January. I've got an extra four months of training under my belt, and I'm ready. Excited, even.
So here's what I was thinking about this week, how easy it is for us to draw a finish line at Easter. Maybe you gave up some food or activity for Lent, and now you can enjoy it without guilt. Or maybe you were more intentional in coming to church, or joined a small group or used a weekly devotional to deepen your faith. There's no doubt that any or all of those commitments are beneficial to your faith. But will those practices or habits continue now that we're on the other side of Easter?
I'd like to encourage you to redraw the finish line, to imagine what it would be like to extend your Lenten commitments beyond Easter. In fact, imagine what it would look like to erase the finish line altogether! For surely, Easter is not the end of the story, but the start of a new beginning, a new chapter of God's story in which we get to play a part.
Don't get me wrong, I'm going to be excited when I do cross that finish line on Sunday, there will be celebration and joy, for I will have done something that a year ago I thought would have been impossible. But I truly hope that it will not be the end of my running (and in fact I'll probably be drawing another finish line or another race to orient myself towards).
So may it be with you - yes we celebrate the arrival of Easter, and the fulfillment of whatever commitments you made and kept for the Lenten season. But I hope you find some new horizon to orient your life and your faith towards, and keep striving to run the race that Christ sets before us all!