Summary: On your mark. The race starter, Jesus himself is trying to get our attention. The race is about to start. It is time to get up to the line. It is time to get into the starting blocks. It is time for the race. On your mark….
Former major league baseball catcher and TV personality, Joe Garagiola, tells about a time when St. Louis Cardinal’s great and hall of famer, Stan Musial came to the plate in a critical game. At the time Musial was a super hitter and was at the peak of his career. As such, opposing pitchers dreaded him coming to bat. On this particular occasion the opposing pitcher was facing Musial for the first time. He was both young and nervous. Garagiola, as the catcher, called for a fastball and the pitcher shook his head; Joe signaled for a curve and again the pitcher shook him off. He then asked for one of the pitcher's specialties and once again the pitcher shook his head no. So Joe went out to the mound for a conference. He said, “I've called for every pitch in the book; what do you want to throw?”
“Nothing,” was the pitcher's nervous reply. He continued, “I just want to hold on to the ball as long as I can.”
The pitcher was so scared he seemingly couldn’t get the at-bat started. It would be like a track race and the starter called, “On your mark,” and one of the runners just couldn’t seem to make his or her way to the starting blocks.
How often are we like that with the calling God places on our lives? We are so nervous over what lies in front of us, so scared of what God is asking us to do, we don’t quite get started.
This morning we are beginning a new talk series I have titled, “The Race.” In a couple of places in the New Testament the metaphor of a track race is used for the life of faith. Paul says in 2 Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.” For Paul, fighting the good fight to finish the race is overcoming the struggles (fighting the good fight) to have lived out a full life of faith (finishing the race and keeping the faith).
In our lesson from Hebrews this morning, the theme passage for this series, the writer says, “So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.” Again, the idea of the race is a metaphor for the life in faith, a life where we are to rid ourselves of the baggage that slows us down and distracts from our primary focus, keeping our eye on Jesus.
Even if you had never watched the runners before the beginning of a track race, I know you have now because we just showed you one. If you watch them, some are joking around. Some remain entirely focused on the race about to begin. Most all of them are stretching or jumping around, doing something to either get their muscles loose or keep them loose. Then the starter calls, “On your marks.” It is the signal the runners the race is about to begin. They move to the starting blocks. Some may stretch a little more but they are all, in their own way, focusing in on the race. Some pray, some stretch a bit more, they all get their feet set in the starting blocks. But, within a few seconds they all become still. And, until they are all still, the starter will remain quiet. The runners become focused. It is almost show time.
I asked the youth to help me out this week. We worked together to make a video last Wednesday night. My thanks to the youth, Daniel, and Cindy for helping me with this project. First, we had a little race. Well, at least it was the beginning of a race. Next I asked the kids a few questions about what “On your mark” might mean in the context of the church. Is there any person they would follow, no questions asked and if they were to follow someone no questions asked what would they be leaving behind. A few, and Daniel, were willing to go on video. Let’s take a look.
What does, “On Your Mark” mean. Well, to put it simply, it is like saying, “May I have your attention please? The race is about to begin.” In the context of the church we need to look at our lesson from Matthew this morning. “On your mark,” I believe is a call to discipleship.
Jesus comes up to the very first of the disciples, the three that would become his inner core plus Andrew, and in essence says, “Simon, Andrew, on your mark.” “James and John, on your mark.” “Simon, Andrew, James and John, may I have your attention please? The race is about to begin.”