Sermons

Summary: For many, life is a panicky run. Serious things happen to us, and we run to tell somebody. The reaction may be to go home and do nothing, and to leave others weeping and perplexed. But when we encounter the risen Christ personally, not as an abstractio

Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC, March 26, 1989 (Easter Sunday)

When you see someone running, do not jump to any conclusions about why that person is running. If you see somebody pickin’ ‘em up and layin’ ‘em down, well, there could be a lot of reasons why. And it could have number of meanings, and so we ought not to assume that we know why.

Some run for the sake of exercise. I had thought that the jogging fad was about over until earlier this week when I drove my wife to the airport and had occasion to drive over Memorial Bridge toward the Pentagon. I thought I was in some third-world capital city in the middle of a revolution, to see all those people in military fatigues running every which way. Well, I guess we can sleep more soundly at night knowing that our country’s defense is in the hands of folks who know what to do with sweatbands and Reeboks. Running has many meanings.

And then there is running for the sake of running. Just running because running is running. I finally got around not too long ago to getting a physical examination. If all of 'you treated seeing the pastor the way I’ve treated seeing the physician, this room would have been empty for the last fifteen years. Anyway, they wired me up with an assortment of electrodes and put me on a treadmill, and they said, walk. And a moment later they said jog. And another moment or two later they said run; and then it was RUN, run, run, run. I caught a glimpse of an evil-looking grin on the technician's face about that time, and before you know it I was pounding away for dear life – couldn't stop, couldn't go fast enough, couldn’t do anything except hang on and cry for mercy. If they had asked me for my life savings, they could have had it all, all of it, all three dollars and sixty-two cents of it, because sometimes when you are running for the sake of running, and that’s all, you want out. You want out badly. “Stop the world, I want to get off.” So the title of a musical a few years back.

All kinds of meanings to the act of running. And then of course there is running because you are scared and panicked and you have to get away or you have to get somewhere else, or most of all, you have to tell somebody about it. You run sometimes just because something happens that you can’t handle, and you have to tell somebody. It just won’t stay suppressed. You just have to let somebody know.

The other night Senator Mark Hatfield and his family found themselves on the edge of a gun battle. He realized that if he stayed around it would be very easy to get caught in the crossfire, and so he ran. He put that car in overdrive and he ran. Everybody is a little surprised that he didn’t call the police and report it; you judge that, as you will. But I notice that he did report it. He did have to talk about it. He did not just tuck it away in his private life and forget about it. He ran and he reported to the Senate, reported to the press, reported to the public. When you run in a panic, the chances are you are running to report, you are running to share your panic with somebody who will listen.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. The text says “So she ran.” So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple. And she reported her panic and her fear. And we understand that kind of running now, don’t we? We can discern what is happening for Mary Magdalene; when something threatens you, when something happens that upsets your expectations, all you know to do is to run and report it, hoping that some other human mind can offer you a fresh perspective, hoping that the compassion of a friend can slow down your pulsing heart and can find a word of insight.

You see, sometimes destructive events happen to us so swiftly and in such rapid succession that we just cannot absorb it all. We just cannot make sense of it all. And we’re left without any anchor. The week had begun with the teacher entering the city in apparent triumph. The crowd had been waving the palm branches and had been cheering and shouting. And Mary had imagined that if Jesus had wanted to take over the temple, the city, the nation, the people would have supported him. But the events of the rest of the week had moved so swiftly: confrontations at the temple, acid questions from the lawyers, cryptic and puzzling statements from the teacher himself. And then in a dizzying whirl, with no time to think about it, a Passover dinner transformed into some kind of personal testimony about self-sacrifice. A rush of swords and kisses and· stamping feet on the Mount of Olives; cock-crow in the courtyard and whips and purple robes and thorns and the governor's public hand-washing. And before she knew what to think, a long, slow, painful procession up a hillside, the mind-searing sound of hammers pounding nails to rip young flesh; and three hours, three hours in which she had seemed to hold her very breath. How could it all have happened so fast?

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