Persevere, Don’t Lose Heart—A Word for Holy Wednesday
12 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, 2 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.
3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
It is Holy Wednesday. In ordinary times, we would probably still be pursuing life as usual. We might be going to work or school. We might be getting things ready for Easter Sunday, but the main events of Holy Week are still a day away. These are not, of course, ordinary times. As I contemplated what I might write for Holy Wednesday, I decided to look at the lectionary. This text seemed to speak to this moment in time.
The author invites us to consider that great cloud of witnesses—the heavenly host—or maybe more specifically the persons noted in Hebrews 11: Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, along with all who remained faithful, especially the martyrs. They sit in the stadium bearing witness to our lives of faith, we who have been invited to look to Jesus, who is the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” He is the one whose life and death provides us guidance as we persevere in running the race that is our faith, stripping away all that hinders us. It might be worth noting that ancient athletes running races did so naked. So, this is an invitation to get naked before the heavenly host as we run the race of faith. In this case, that which is to be stripped away is the sin that hinders our ability to run with Jesus.
As we move through the next few days, we will watch as Jesus faces the forces of hostility. He could turn around, head out of Jerusalem, and return to the safety of Galilee. Yet he didn’t. He will persevere as he faces trial and tribulation, including mockery, flogging, and crucifixion. There will be at the end of the week, on the first day of a new week, a sign of hope. There will be resurrection. There will be exaltation, but in the meantime, we must persevere. We must not grow weary or lose heart.
While I don’t know this hymn by John Monsell, his hymn “Fight the Good Fight” (1863) draws on the reading from Hebrews 12, calling on us to fight the good fight, and run the race of faith with persistence. It is a word that speaks, as does the reading from Hebrews 12 during this particular moment.
Fight the good fight with all thy might;
Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right:
lay hold on life, and it shall be
thy joy and crown eternally.
Run the straight race through God's good grace,
lift up thine eyes, and seek his face;
life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.
As we move toward Holy Thursday and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, may this word speak to us, so that we might “not grow weary or lose heart.”
As an addendum, you may listen to the hymn set to Duke Street here, though Pentecost is the most widely used version.