Perseverance - Rev. Chris Shorow

There is a sculpture on the Riverwalk in Bricktown in downtown Oklahoma City. You have probably noticed it—it is Sisyphus pushing a huge boulder up a ramp. It is a representation of the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the proud king who was punished by the gods for his hubris. On more than one occasion, Sisyphus tricked the gods. One time, Hades, god of the underworld, had chained Sisyphus to the rocks of the underworld to prevent him from escaping. While preparing to leave, Sisyphus asked him to demonstrate how the chains worked. Suddenly, Hades found himself chained to the rocks instead. Sisyphus thought he was so clever that he could outsmart all of the gods, including Zeus. The trick failed when Zeus sentenced him for eternity to roll an enormous boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down—every time.

The myth was designed to show how human beings get caught up in their mundane, everyday existence that proves as meaningless as rolling a boulder up a mountain for eternity. Pretty depressing, actually. The existential philosopher, Albert Camus wrote a book on Sisyphus, portraying him as a hero, ever persevering to roll the stone, and finding meaning in that simple act. Certainly he was persistent, but was he a hero?

Our scripture tells us about our God, a God who cares intimately for each of us. God has created each of us individually and uniquely, and is a source of strength and courage in the face of our trials. Instead of sentencing us to rolling rocks, God provides hope and comfort to those who suffer. Our perseverance as Christians is not to the endless tasks of life, but to our God who is always there for us. I think Psalm 27 says it well, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Most of us have experienced a time in our lives when we feel like we have been sentenced to rolling stones up mountains. We feel like our life is just going through the motion of living. We have lost our spirit and love of life. But we have an alternative. Just as Paul tells us in Romans 12, we are to persevere in prayer. That kind of perseverance pays off; it provides reward to those patient enough to wait for the Lord. So instead of seeking to be like Sisyphus, finding meaning in meaningless tasks, we can find meaning in waiting upon God. Perseverance is a good trait to seek during our Lenten journey.

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