Yesterday marked the 76th Little Brown Jug Race. If you have lived in Delaware for any length of time, you know about the Little Brown Jug, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for pacers. We see Little Brown references throughout our town: names of streets, the mascot for Hayes High School and restaurant references.
Our family lives on Curly Smart Circle. Who was Curly Smart, you ask? His real name is Wayne Smart, the winning driver of the first Little Brown Jug in 1946, with Ensign Hanover, the horse.
When we moved here 14 years ago, we were told that the town basically shuts down on Jug Day, that schools are closed, UPS drivers do not deliver, and the race takes precedence over activities in town.
In the Bible, we read about running the race in Hebrews 12. Instead of a horse race, these verses compare Christians to runners in a stadium. The author pictures them surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. These witnesses are not mere spectators but include the whole company of faithful people pictured in the previous chapter.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and many others who have already experienced the challenges of living in faith. This cloud of witnesses provides inspiration for others engaged in lives of faith. The author notes that athletes lay aside everything that gets in the way of running, so that they will not be tripped up along the way.
Similarly, the faithful are called to lay aside the things that encumber them and seek to trip them up. They are to run the race with perseverance.
There is no suggestion that only the fastest runner wins the race or that there is only one prize. Rather, the goal is to persevere, to continue moving forward in faith. Perseverance rather than speed is what is important.
Finally, we are given inspiration by Jesus himself. Jesus enters fully into the human condition, experiencing suffering and death before being exalted to heavenly glory. This in turn assures us that those who are faithful in following Christ, despite obstacles and suffering, have the promise of everlasting life in God’s presence.
As we reflect on the Little Brown Jug and the races we experience in life, let us remember God’s hope for us to run our race with perseverance, “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
The Rev. Dr. Tamara Wilden is an ordained elder in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church and serves as a hospital chaplain with OhioHealth.