Summary: Through the lens of a popular reality TV show, this sermon encourages believers to commit to the amazing race of the Christian life.

Rev. Lin Smalec Salem Church, Waynesboro, PA


13 November 2005

How many of you have ever been in a foot race or marathon? Wow! I really admire people who can put out the physical effort needed to run in a race like that. Words like endurance, courage, persistence, and fortitude come to mind when I think about running in a race.

Now, how many of you have ever seen the reality TV show, “The Amazing Race”? I have to admit I had never seen it until I watched a few episodes to prepare for this message. It’s actually a pretty good show - in fact, it’s won the Emmy several years in a row for the best reality TV show. Let me describe it to you in case you’ve never seen it.

The competitors are teams of people who have a preexisting relationship, such as family, friends, or coworkers. The version on now is the family edition, so it’s teams of four family members. Other editions have been couples of one kind or another. Anyway, 11 teams compete in an “amazing race” around the world. They never know where they are going or what they’ll have to do when they get there. There are physical and mental tasks to complete at each destination in order for them to earn the next clue to the next destination. They are allowed limited financial resources, so the teams must rely on their creativity, courage, and sheer luck to get ahead. They are pushed to their physical and emotional limits. They are totally taken out of their comfort zone, competing in foreign countries where they don’t speak the language. At regular intervals, the last team to arrive at a specified destination is eliminated. The million dollar prize is awarded to the first team to make it to the finish.

I’ve found the few episodes I’ve watched fascinating. The families competing vary in age and makeup - but the biggest challenge for them is not dealing with foreign cultures or languages, but learning how to work together, how to tap into the strengths of each person,

in order for their team to get ahead. Those teams who can’t cooperate find themselves falling behind!

For the past few weeks we have been using the lens of reality TV shows to illuminate some facets of true reality - the reality of the Christian life. You’ll remember that I made the point that reality TV is not reality! Reality is defined as “the fact, state or quality of being real or genuine”. (1) Reality TV shows may be unscripted and the characters may not be actors, but that does not mean that reality TV is truly real or genuine!

But the true reality is that all of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, are participating in an amazing race! And our race doesn’t just take hours or days or weeks - our race lasts for a lifetime!

Turn with me to the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12. (READ 12:1-2) This is one of many places in the New Testament where athletic imagery is used to teach spiritual truths. You see, the Greeks and Romans were passionate about sports and athletics - we Americans are very similar to them in this area. It was considered patriotic to be a good athlete and to bring

honor and glory to your city or country by winning an event. (2, pg 322) The popularity of athletics made such imagery very effective in preaching and teaching God’s reality to the early Christians.

The writer to the Hebrews says “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” What is he talking about? What race? How does this apply to us? Well, let’s think for a moment about some of the elements of a typical race.

First of all, a race has a goal. No race goes on forever and ever, mindlessly running around in circles. No race backtracks to the beginning. Every race has a goal - a finish line.

In the amazing race of the Christian life, what is our goal, our finish line? What is the purpose of our race? William Barclay suggests that “the goal is nothing less than the likeness of Christ. The Christian life is going somewhere, and it would be well if, at each day’s ending, we were to ask ourselves: “Am I any farther on?”” (3, pg 171). In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul says this: “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NASB) Remember that the word “Christian” really means to be a “little Christ”. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, then the ultimate goal of our amazing race of life is to become more and more like him in what we say, what we do, what we think and what we believe.

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