One of the great things about living in suburban Indianapolis is the fact that we have the annual running of the Indy 500 – the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – and this year, we experienced the 100th running of the race. One might wonder, if the first race was run in 1911, why this is only the 100th time the “500” has been run, but there were several years during WWI and WWII that the competition wasn’t held. So today was a pretty big day – in fact, the entire month has been filled with hype and even when Janet and I went down to the track a week ago for a corporate event, you could just sense the excitement building.
Each year, we get invited for lunch, a tour of Gasoline Alley and the pits, as well as a short visit to buy a current hat to commemorate the occasion. Then there is the parade, all kinds of events leading up to the special Memorial Day celebration and before you know it – it’s time to go racing.
One of the drivers – Ed Carpenter – actually attends our church and last night (we usually attend the Saturday evening service), Ed was there with his wife, Heather, worshipping with the rest of us. To me, it says something that a world famous race car driver, who owns a team and is driving in the race, is sitting in church the evening before the “500.” I’m sure that there are many parties he could be attending and certainly, there are things in the garage that he could be tweaking, but there Ed was, in church, singing songs and participating in prayers.
And this wasn’t just once – this is the way that Ed and his family always spend the evening before the race. In fact, one of our pastors asked Ed to come up front at the end of the service and we prayed for him – for good decision making, patience, safety for all the drivers and teams, as well as a host of other requests.
But this year, the race was won by a rookie – someone who had never even seen the speedway in person before this past March – and who hasn’t even run a race in the United States since he was 16 years old. In fact, last year, Alexander Rossi watched the race from Monaco. And this evening, he is a champion – having won the Indy 500 on a daring gamble to try to finish the race without stopping after running 36 laps on his tank of fuel.
He just made it – crossing the finish line and promptly running the tank dry before he could even pull into victory lane to receive the traditional drink of milk, a kiss from the 500 Queen and the victory wreath presented to him as he climbed out of the car. He ran an incredible race and couldn’t believe that he had won. His team owner, Michael Andretti, was just as surprised.
Our verse for this evening comes from the apostle Paul, who was speaking to his young friend, Timothy, in his second letter to the young pastor. Paul tells Timothy, and those of us who have access to his letter, in 2 Tim. 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul was encouraging Timothy, from the vantage point of someone who was advanced in his ministry years – to his protege who was just starting out and had a lifetime of ministry ahead of him. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants each of us to run the good race as well – following the commands of Jesus and His promises for us – his loyal disciples. My prayer is that you will stay the course and run hard – some of us are rookies, just starting out and others of us are mature Christians with many years of our faith journey already behind us. But we are assured of the crown that will be awarded to each of us when we complete the course that has been set out for each of us. The great thing here is that all of us can win – not just one of us. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…