By Stuart Powell
High school track meets feature athletes running a variety of distances around a 400-meter oval. In the Midwest, the 3,200-meter run is the longest of those races. Runners race eight laps around the track. The race starts at the beginning of turn one. The 100-meter curve is followed by a 100-meter straightaway, then another 100-meter curve, and finally the 100-meter homestretch. The 3,200 has 16 long left-hand turns and 16 straightaways between the start and finish of the race. No matter where the race is run, the track is the same. Each race finishes where it began.
The beginning of the race is important, but not as critical as the end. Prizes aren’t awarded until the end. Trophies are reserved for the finishers. Although spectators and teammates often cheer and shout encouragement, the runner’s relationship with the start/finish line is what matters most in a 3,200-meter run. The runners step over the start/finish line nine times during a race. In all but the final crossing, the line delivers the same message: keep going . . . finish! Every time a runner crosses the line, the longing to finish grows stronger.
As Christians, we too have a finish line upon which we focus. We may not realize, however, that every time we gather around this table should serve as a reminder that our race is continuing. The time at this table is like crossing the line that completes each lap. The apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth,
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, New English Translation, author’s emphasis).
If the loaf and cup of Communion could talk, they might offer this message: “Keep going. The end of the race is drawing near.” The longing to finish grows stronger every time we eat the bread. Every time we drink, it builds up our hope. Every time we gather, we realize that Jesus’ promises are nearer now than when we first believed.
Keep going until the end.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.