Holy Week reminds us of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. While many of us have been sacrificing or stripping things away this season, as a way to walk more closely with God, sometimes those sacrifices are not welcome or our choice. Where is God in the midst of our unwilling and unplanned sacrifices?
One year ago, almost to the day, things got scary. Rhetoric from the news and medical professionals moved from “be careful and wash your hands” to County Wide curfews and a Shelter in Place order. It wasn’t exactly clear what the next 12 months would look like and it felt like every time things got a little better, it would immediately get much worse. Throughout this last year there has been a lot of focus put on what people have had to give up.
When it came to wearing masks, early on in the pandemic (and even now) so much emphasis was put on whether or not the Government could make you wear a mask. And there are the hyperbolic examples of people claiming they had religious exemptions to wearing masks or other reasons why they could not comply with the instructions given. When it came to staying home, the conversation became whether or not the Government could keep you in your home, or keep businesses closed.
Now I am not here to judge one way or the other on how things have gone over the last year, but it does make me curious.
There is an amazing Documentary called “The Barkley Marathons” produced in 2014 chronicling the tale of an Ultra-Marathon called “The Barkley” that takes place in Rural Tennessee. Everything about this marathon is odd and intriguing. Your entrance fee is $1.60 plus whatever other odd requirements might befall you that year. For a long time it was a license plate from the state or the country you might be from. Another year, the inventor of the marathon Gary Cantrall needed some white shirts, so your entrance fee was a white shirt.
When you are accepted to run the Barkley, you get a letter of condolences, started with the line “We regret to inform you that you have been accepted to run in the Barkley”. This marathon is not just one marathon, it is 5 back to back marathons in the most rural, rugged terrain imaginable. I don’t want to spoil much of the Documentary, because it is excellent, but there is an interesting note that Cantrall (known as Laz) mentions. The people that come and run this ultramarathon are PhDs in physics, researchers, medical doctors, special forces veterans, all people that have pushed themselves to the utmost and want the next challenge and The Barkley represents that challenge. Since its inception in 1986, it has only been completed 18 times. The Barkley represents a challenge that exists right on the edge of what is possible.
For the past year, it feels like we have all collectively been running a marathon and for all we have had to sacrifice this year and will continue to have to sacrifice, God is in the midst of us challenging us to be better. Challenging us to push past those barriers we are afraid of, those pre-conceived notions we cling to so that we can simply take better care of each and every person we encounter. So that we can listen better to each other’s stories, and experiences and contexts. So that we can love our neighbors truly and fully and in order to do any of this, we will need to give up some things. And we will with God’s help.
COLLECT OF THE DAY
O Lord, you relieve our necessity out of the abundance of your great riches: Grant that we may accept with joy the salvation you bestow, and manifest it to all the world by the quality of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
LISTEN TO PODCAST "TURNING FROM EGO TO LOVE WITH RICHARD ROHR"
Click below to listen to Richard Rohr and Bishop Michael Curry discuss the spiritualities of addition and subtraction and the consequences for our country and ourselves when we spend more time placing Jesus on a pedestal than we do actively following him.
WATCH "THE BARKLEY MARATHONS: THE RACE THAT EATS ITS YOUNG"
Click below to the award-winning documentary that reveals the sports world's most guarded secret.
Click on the link below to purchase today's suggested read: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved by Kat Bowler.