In the year 490 BC the Persian military landed on the shores of Greece.
Today the area that was Persia is now modern Iran. At that time, the Persian Empire was feared, mighty, and powerful. When they landed, they outnumbered the Greeks 4:1.
Had the Persians been successful, world history would’ve been very different. The East would have conquered the West. Greek and Roman and European culture would not have happened in the way we know it.
But that is not what happened. The badly outnumbered Greeks launched a surprise attack, won the battle, and pushed the Persians to the sea.
While this was an incredible victory, news traveled slowly in the ancient world. The rest of Greece lived in fear of the Persians, in fact, at the same time that the Greek military was defeating the Persians, the political leaders of Athens were contemplating surrender.
That is, until after the battle a man named Pheidippides was sent to run 26 miles from the battlefront to Athens. Pheidippides ran to the Acropolis, burst into the chambers and proclaimed “Nike! Nike! Nenikekamen!”: Victory! Victory! Rejoice, we conquer!
After delivering this message, Pheidippides collapsed from exhaustion and died.
But with this singular proclamation, the Greeks gained confidence, united together, and the Persians retreated.
The battle in which the outnumbered Greeks upset the more powerful Persians happened at a place called the Plains of Marathon. And today, millions of us, who have something wrong with us, continue to run marathons in the spirit of Pheidippides.
Runners are an odd lot. There is very little physical benefit to running marathons. Sure, we burn a lot of calories, but the human body only needs 60 minutes of exercise a day. Something is wrong with people like Jonathan and I who run four or five or more hours at one time. Back in April I ran a 12 hour race and Jonathan is in the middle of running a marathon in every state.
Not only is there probably something wrong with people like Jonathan and I mentally, but as runners we have ugly feet. When you run as far as we do, we get blisters, calluses, black toenails that fall off. It is not pretty.
So when the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: “how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel” he had not seen the feet of runners. They are not beautiful.
I would imagine that it isn’t only runners who don’t feel fond about their feet. If I was to tell you all to take off your shoes and socks and we are going to have a foot washing, how many of you would be uncomfortable? If I told you you were going to wash each other’s feet, how many of you would be uncomfortable?
And yet, Jesus washed the disciples feet on the same night he gave us communion. Every month we come to this table and we receive the grape and the grain and we look forward to receiving this spiritual meal.
But foot washing? That is uncomfortable. And yet Jesus instructed us to do it. In the gospel of John it says, “And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you.”
There is probably no other direct instruction given in the gospels so clearly that we do so seldom.
Although many of us are uncomfortable with our feet, and probably even more uncomfortable with the prospect of washing someone else’s feet, our feet are really a remarkable part of creation. Our feet carry the entire weight of our bodies, they put up with all kinds of abuse, and they are resilient.
Our feet carry us everywhere we go, and everywhere we go we are messengers. Like Pheidippides proclaiming victory, we proclaim our own news.
For thousands of years the primary way that news travelled was through messengers like Pheidippides. For the last couple hundred years news came through print and newspapers. In the last hundred years news came through radio and television. But today, delivering the news is not limited to long distance runners or journalists. Today, we are all reporters.
We publish our lives on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. We proclaim to our friends and our neighbors the things that are important to us.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers win a game on Sunday, you know that Paul is going to talk about it all week.
Many of you went on a trip to the Holy Land in February, and you haven’t stopped talking about it yet.
When something good happens in our lives, we tell people. We can barely eat a good meal without posting a picture of it for all to see.
This is the story of how we have grown as Community Development for All People. We opened a free store thinking a few would show up. But what happened? People told their friends there is this place where everything is free and you have to come and see it for yourself. And what we thought was going to be a few people turned in to more than 20,000 people a year.
This is the story of the Fresh Market. So far this year we have fed almost 16,000 people through our market, and we will feed even more when we move across the street to the old liquor store. And how much do you think we spend in advertising? Nothing.
You don’t have to advertise when food is involved.
A couple of weeks ago Epworth United Methodist Church hosted a barbecue in the parking lot on a Friday afternoon. We only put the word out a few days beforehand and hundreds showed up. Why? Because people share the news of food.
The church has been described as a place where one beggar tells another beggar where to find bread.
And the bread we have found is something much greater than Sunday breakfast or Soup for the Soul or the Fresh Market. The bread that we have found is the Bread of Life. It is a bread that has fed our souls and brought us liberation from addiction, comfort in our mourning, strength in our weakness, a love for God and for one another that we thought we could never have.
But this bread is not only meant for us. It is not a bread for us to get full on so we can sit back and take a nap with a full belly, it is a bread for us to break and to share with one another.
Paul writes to the Romans that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. That is a message that a Church for all People can get behind, right? Who will be saved? All. Black people and white people, rich people and poor people, republicans and democrats, all of the diversity we see in this room.
While this is a message we associate with, Paul doesn’t stop by saying all will be saved, but he goes on to ask, how can people call on the name of the Lord if they haven’t heard, and how can they hear unless someone tells them, and how will someone tell them unless they have been sent?
Paul’s point here is an obvious one. How can you know about something if no one is sent, tells you, and you hear it.
As obvious as this is, we have all experienced it. How many times has someone said to you, you missed the show last night, why weren’t you at the game, did you hear what Lamar did at coffee house? And you respond by saying, I didn’t know because you didn’t tell me.
In order for people to know they have to hear, in order to hear they have to be told, and in order to be told someone has to be sent.
When it comes to the church, who is the one who is sent?
We might think it is the job of the pastors, the staff, the worship leaders. After all, that is what we pay them for right?
If you say that, you aren’t wrong. In fact, the pastoral staff is working to make sure we do a better job of connecting with people in our community.
But how many of you are baptized? Raise your hand if you have been baptized.
If you are baptized, you are sent in to ministry.
When we take our baptismal vows we says we will support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Our service and our witness mean that we are all sent to go and share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people.
We are all sent.
We are not sent simply for the sake of the church. We are not sent because it would make us feel better to have more people here on a Sunday morning. We are not sent so we can have more people to do stuff or more money put in the offering plate.
We are sent because we want others to experience the gifts of God’s love and grace that we have received. We want others to experience the love and forgiveness and redemption and transformation we have found in Jesus Christ.
Pheidippides proclaimed victory. We too proclaim the victory of Jesus Christ who conquered sin and death, and we proclaim the victory God has made in our lives.
The Church for All People is a remarkable place. It is remarkable because despite all of our diversity, we are united as one Body of Christ when we say “God loves us just the way we are and God is not finished with us yet.”
We know God is not finished with us yet because we can see how God has changed us since we came here. In the 2 1/2 years I have been here I have been challenged by your faith, awed by a divine economy of God’s abundance, and enriched by this community. In this short amount of time, I have been transformed and I know that many of you have much more powerful testimonies than me.
How has your life changed from the time you first walked through those doors to where you are today? How are you different because of the ways you have experienced God’s love in this place?
If you can look back and see how you have been changed, think of someone you know and care about who you want to experience the same thing. Who do you want to be able to receive the gift of being a part of this beloved community?
This weekend we have been reminded that transformation is not only an individual thing. We look at the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and are reminded how deep the sins of racism and anger and violence run in our country. The only hope we have is in God. It is us living as inclusive body of Christ that shows the world what it means that every person is created in God’s image.
Those are the gifts that change people’s lives, those are the gifts that are at work transforming our community, those are the gifts that are bringing about God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
But how will they know that this is the place where lives and communities are transformed unless they hear it? How will they hear it unless it is spoken? How will it be spoken if no one is sent?
You are the ones who have been sent. Like Pheidippides of old, you have been given life-changing news to proclaim.
So go and tell others of the gifts of grace you have found here.
Go and tell others that this is a place where all who call upon the name of the Lord experience salvation.
Go and tell others your story about how God’s love has changed your life.
Go and tell others so they too can live in to the full and abundant life God created for them.
Go and tell others, for if you don’t tell them, how will they know?