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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:1–2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (NRSV)

When I sealed the Fourth Presbyterian Church time capsule back in September 2012—having added the last day-of pieces, from newspapers to a list of that morning’s new members—what had once been a checklist project for the team of us identifying, gathering, and packaging the items suddenly became, in its closing, a deeply moving moment.

Sealing that time capsule to be laid in the cornerstone of a new addition might have been a less profound experience had it not come on the one-hundredth anniversary of laying the Sanctuary’s cornerstone. In that larger context, the moment became about more than just the “us” of today preserving items that offer a snapshot of who we were in 2012 or about celebrating the realization of the marvelous new Gratz Center. It became about not only us and those who will follow in this next century on Michigan Avenue, which we mark in this centennial year as we celebrate the May 1914 dedication of the Sanctuary, but about all the faithful on whose shoulders we stand, about the generations who have come and gone since that first cornerstone and, along the way, been part of the vibrant and defining ministry and history of the church.

“Therefore . . .” begins chapter 12 of Hebrews, reminding us that what we read today does not stand apart from the text that has gone before it either—does not stand apart from chapter eleven’s testimony to the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and the God who went before them, in pillar of cloud and burning fire, in words from on high, in a voice still and quiet. Who goes before us.

It is in that context that we run our race—a race that is a journey, not a singular moment; that is a way, not simply a finished achievement; that is a constant unfolding, not a final realization. A race undertaken in community, embraced out of gratitude—as both gift and responsibility. As calling and commitment.

For we too stand in that great cloud of witnesses, testifying to those yet to come of the One who has led us all the journey through.

O Holy Zion’s help forever, you are our confidence alone. Grant me strength for the race. Guide me with your sure presence. And hold ever before me that this race I do not run alone, nor is it not mine alone. To the glory of your holy name. Amen.

Written by Ann Rehfeldt, Director of Communications

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