It’s been a fantastic week to be in Oklahoma City. Along with amazing weather, we’ve had the Norman Music Festival, the Festival of the Arts and the Memorial Marathon.
The marathon is billed as a run to remember. It’s a great tagline.
The Old Testament church used to erect remembrance stones for important times and places. We talk about these when we sing, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come.” An Ebenezer is a stone of help. We need these in our lives to mark times, places, memories and events.
We raise our Ebenezer when we build a memorials, like our own one that remembers April 19, 1995. That spot becomes sacred, holy almost if not all the way.
Another example of Ebenezers might be when you see little memorial spots with crosses and flowers by the side of the road, marking the place where a loved one died. These are special places for us. We commemorate them and the people that made them that way.
Can a marathon be an Ebenezer? Instead of a static, holy place, the marathon is an active participation in an event. It’s something very alive, generating a zeal and passion. It takes dedication and training. It’s a huge effort to log those miles on your shoes with sore muscles. It’s why a marathon is an excellent way to remember. You have to do something to be there! It takes effort to sign up, train, prepare and then gather together. There’s an energy when all those people who have been training separately come together as one to take off.
I’ve run four full marathons. The first one I ran and trained as hard as I could. We ran in Dallas in December. The night before the weather was at least 70 degrees, and everyone was preparing to be overheated. That evening, a cold front rolled in and at race time it was 35 degrees and raining. I wasn’t ready for that. I kept chugging away, and then bonked at the end once I crossed the finish line. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but I did it.
The second one went fine. It was the Bass Pro marathon in Springfield, Missouri, a low key, flat race through the city close to where I grew up. I ran one with Julie, which was a great experience.
My last race was the Oklahoma Memorial Marathon, but I didn’t train for it. I got sick that spring and missed about a month before the race. I’d already paid, and I’d run before, so I kept my bib and I wanted a finisher shirt, so I marched on at a slow, slow pace, keeping at it all the way. Slow and steady.
My favorite experience though was when I walked with my friend Andrew. We’d planned on me joining him for the last six miles so he’d have a buddy to talk to to guide him on it. Except – he hit the wall about three miles before that. He didn’t look good when we met up, and I tried to encourage him to finish strong. We scrapped that, and decided to just finish. We walked it, which was great for me. It was a wonderful few hours to stand beside someone who didn’t do it like he wanted, but he made it nonetheless.
The last few miles have banners with each person’s name who died in the April 19th bombing. They’re remembered by us as we run or walk by. They’re why we took the time and effort to get off our duffs and do something. Our times may have been slow or fast, and we may have run like the wind or staggered in at the end, but it’s not for ourselves. We’re with a great cloud of witnesses. We’re not alone. We’re participating with those who have gone before us, contributing our lives and voices in our sacrifice.
These are Ebenezers. They’re stones of remembrances and helps. They’re monuments to those who we remember as we run.
This is a great mystery. I’m talking about the church.