Summary: We are all called to run a race, the life in faith. Getting set is making the final preparations to live out God's call on our lives.
Though it is classified as an old movie, I know many of you have seen the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire. Even if the movie is 30 plus years old, many of us saw the movie in theaters or DVD in the years since it was released. It is an excellent movie. If you haven’t seen it, I know it is available on Amazon Instant Video and I would guess the same would be true for Netflix.
For those in the Strauss Sunday school class, I realize this story is a bit of a rerun from last Sunday’s class when I talked about this movie but I am making a bit of a different point this morning and the story of Eric Liddell is just too good for all the church not to hear it.
The film is the story of Scottish sprinter Eric Liddell in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. As the Olympics approached, Liddell was the favorite to win gold in the 100 meters, one of track and field’s flagship events. When the race schedule came out, Liddell, a devout Christian faced a dilemma. Thus far in his career, Liddell had refused to run on Sunday. But, when the schedule came out the preliminary heats for the 100 meters were set for a Sunday. If he didn’t run the preliminary heats, he would of course not be able to run in the finals. He would be disqualified. Liddell’s dilemma was, he believed running, or any other sporting event on Sunday dishonored God and didn’t keep the Sabbath holy. On the other hand, this was HIS event. It was the premiere event in the Olympics in those days, and he was the favorite in the race. What do you do?
In the end, Liddell, in spite of considerable pressure to run from both the British Olympic Committee and from the Crown, decided not to run. He stuck to his convictions, he stayed with what he was taught, what he had learned, despite what the world may have had to say about it. Eric Liddell was what Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount and our lesson this morning called, “The Salt of the Earth” and “The Light of the World.” By his decision, Eric Liddell showed the world what the flavor of Christianity might look like. He let the world see the light of the Christian faith by calling attention to it and demonstrating that faith and conviction, one’s beliefs, one’s code of conduct, is more important than sports or many things of the world.
Please understand, I am not saying playing sports or watching sports on a Sunday is some great sin. That isn’t my point. I am not even sure Eric Liddell would have said sports on Sunday was a sin for everyone. But, he knew it was wrong for him. He couldn’t do it.
This morning we are continuing our three part series, “The Race.” In many of his letters Paul and the writer of Hebrews, our theme passage for this series, uses the metaphor of sports, particularly running a race to illustrate the life of faith. Paul says, “I have run the race and kept the faith. The writer of Hebrews reminds us to “…run the race that is set before us…”
We began this series last week with, “On Your Mark.” On your mark is the starter’s call the racers to come to the line, to get their attention, to prepare for the beginning of the race. Last week we used the metaphor of “On Your Mark” to illustrate the calling we all have as Christians. When Jesus called the first disciples he was, in essence saying, “Andrew, Simon, on your mark. James and John, on your mark.” Jesus was saying, “Andrew, Simon, James and John, it is time to get ready to run your race, to live out your life in faith.”
We are all called by God to various things. Some are called to be preachers, others teachers, others to music, others to administration and so forth. We all have calls to some kind of ministry. “On your mark” is a metaphor for God calling us to begin our life and work in faith.
When the runners hear the command, “on your mark,” they get their feet into the starting blocks. They get their hands set down on the track behind the starting line. They are close to ready, but not quite. They are ready but relaxed. Their knees are usually down on the track. They may even leave their torso erect. There still may be a little talking. There is usually a bit of praying on at least one runner’s part.
Then, when finally all the runners come to stillness, when all is as quiet as possible, the starter will say, “Set” or “get set.” It is the final signal of preparation from the starter to the runners. It is a signal of complete preparedness. With that command, heads will go down and rear-ends will go up. Knees come up off the track’s pavement. The runners are waiting to start the race. It is almost time. If they didn’t come to the set position they wouldn’t be ready to run. If they didn’t come to the set position they wouldn’t really look much like a real runner.