OCTOBER 5, 2018


Dear Church,

This week is my annual pilgrimage through the 29 neighborhoods throughout the City of Chicago. Like last year, my brother Kyle is flying out from Los Angeles to run with me and this year, my cousin and aunt from Philadelphia are flying out as my cousin Jane is running as well.    I’m looking forward to enjoying the beautiful City of Chicago, feeling the energy of the crowd and pacing fellow runners to (hopefully) their personal best time of 3:45.  

Have you ever wondered why a marathon is 26.2 miles? Sort of a random number, don’t you think?  Interestingly enough the ancient marathon was roughly 25 miles.  However, at the 1908 Games in London the course was extended, allegedly to accommodate the British royal family. As the story goes, Queen Alexandra requested that the race start on the lawn of Windsor Castle (so the littlest royals could watch from the window of their nursery, according to some accounts) and finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic Stadium—a distance that happened to be 26.2 miles (26 miles and 385 yards). The random boost in mileage ended up sticking, and in 1921 the length for a marathon was formally standardized at 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers).

Pretty interesting, wouldn’t you say?  What’s interesting is that the biggest “hill” at the Chicago Marathon is the last .2 miles of the marathon.  Runners reach mile 26 right at the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt and then make a sharp left turn running up over the overpass on Roosevelt before turning left for the finish line.  By that time, the slight uphill over the overpass feels in your quads and calves like climbing a mountain.  But, it’s also the best time in the marathon to keep your head on a swivel and notice the crowds, look for loved ones, and take it all in one last time before the finish line.  

I find myself on my .2 of my 26.2 mile ten-and a half-year marathon serving the First Reformed Church in South Holland, IL. Like the marathon, I find myself looking back a lot more.  I find myself noticing the loved ones a bit more.  I find myself feeling this curious mixture of pain and excitement.  The last ten and a half years have been a wonderful marathon.  Sarah and I moved to South Holland over Memorial Day weekend in 2008.  Our kids weren’t specks in our eyes.  All that we owned fit into a church van we borrowed from a friend.  We were still newlyweds trying to figure life and marriage and ministry out – not always well I might add.  The 26 miles have been filled with so many wonderful memories, but mostly they have been wonderful because of the people who have run this race with us.  However, now we are at the .2 part of the marathon. It’s a time to celebrate how far we’ve come, the experiences we’ve had along the way, and the people who have been there each step of the race.  It’s hard and wonderful all at the same time.

Perhaps you find yourself at the .2 of a 26.2-mile journey. Maybe it’s at your job, or a life decision, or a treatment plan or even a relationship.  The 26 miles leading us to this point have been good and hard miles. But now is the time to run with our heads held high the last .2.  To look around and be thankful.  To notice the little things.  To finish strong with joy and gladness.  To give thanks for the people who have run with you.  To celebrate the simple glimpses of grace that have nourished us along the way. There will be a finish line, but not yet.  There’s still .2 miles to run.  So, I for one am running that last stretch with gratitude.  Gratitude for you.  Gratitude for your grace.  Gratitude for the privilege of letting me be your pastor.  To that end, we all keep “Running with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus who is the author, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt