Ponderings with Doug – March 11, 2016


Doug De Graffenried – First United Methodist Church, Natchitoches, Louisiana

“I signed you up for the 5k run/walk.”

My bride shared that good news with me last week. We were talking about the Jonquil Jubilee held in Gibsland, Louisiana. She works at the Gibsland Bank and their employees are very involved staffing the festival. She was giving me the schedule. The pancake breakfast was at eight and the 5k started at nine. Her assignment for the festival was to work in the Gibsland Grill until the food ran out. She didn’t have to be at the Grill until 10:30 and that would give plenty of time for me to participate in the 5k run/walk and walk around with her to see the festival stuff. She was exuberant about my participation in the race. I was less than thrilled. I did note that she did not volunteer to participate in the race with me.

I handled the situation with great aplomb. I milked the pancake breakfast for all it was worth. The Lion’s Club had a cooking accident which allowed me the grace of dragging out breakfast. We didn’t finish our pancakes until 9:00 on the dot. Alas, I missed the start of the 5k. That gave me a whole year to prepare for the 2017 race!

An interesting thing happened to those participating in the run/walk. The race started and the runners shot out quickly, as runners will do. The walkers were not as quick off the starting blocks. As I looked down Main Street there were green 5k shirt wearing people gathered by the railroad tracks, stopped. The arms of the train signals had gone down. The train appeared very quickly.

As the 5K was starting, a train blocked the race. A freight train will slow you down every time. It was a moment when you realized the race had stopped for some through no fault of the participants. I wondered if they would receive bonus points for waiting on the train. The train didn’t take long to go through town and the runners and walkers were off again on their race. It was a moment watching those participants just standing while the train passed by. I was thinking about what a powerful interruption that train was for those race participants.

A couple of weeks ago, I was preaching on the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The Greek says the devil tempted Jesus. The word for devil is diabolos. To give you a literal translation, the devil is that which “throws across your path.” You have seen the cross-stitched aphorism that reads, “When one door closes, God opens another door.” It is something like that. The homespun theology assumes that God closes and opens doors. What if, in some cases it is not God but diabolos? What if the metaphoric closed door,the passing train or the flooding rains are really obstacles thrown into your path to test you and see how you will continue competing in the race of faith?

I think our faith would be much more vibrant if we stopped living by cross-stitched slogans and began living by the scriptural truth. I suppose I have seen too many children of God thrown off track by the train that cuts through the race course. We might call it a time of trial, temptation or suffering. What has been thrown across your path? Before you look for that other opened window, or detour off of your path, consider the words of the Apostle Paul:

“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  Romans 5: 3-5 NRSV

Maybe you are called to stick to your guns, don’t detour or yield to the temptation of quitting, but remain faithful as you “run with perseverance the race that is set before you.”

Stay the course. The race is not over.

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