A Celebration of the Life of Edward Martin Espenshade
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (May 11th, 2018)
Text: Hebrew’s 12:1-3
Title: Run With Endurance the Race that is Set Before Us!!!
Run With Endurance the Race that is Set Before Us!!!
If there is one verse in the Bible which defines and expresses the essence and the enduring legacy of the life of Edward Martin Espenshade it is this remarkable verse from the 12thchapter of the letter to the Hebrews…Run With Endurance the Race that is Set Before Us!!!
I would like for us to focus our thoughts for just a few moments this evening on two words from this remarkable passage of scripture…the word RACE and the word ENDURANCE. Did you know that the Greek word which is translated RACE in the NT is the word AYWVAS, and agynasis the root of the English word AGONY. Sometimes life…the race of life…is filled with agony. This was certainly true for Ed, who endured much more than his fair share of agony and disappointment, loss and pain and suffering. Ed’s battle with diabetes and with the OLI…the inoperable brain tumor he lived with for 15 years was the source of agony and robbed him of so many things including his passion for running. Ed’s struggles are a poignant reminder that the race of life can be agonizing…even for a person of faith. The Race Ed was asked to run is a powerful reminder that being a Christ-Follower…a disciple of the Carpenter from Nazareth does not mean that we are hermetically sealed…protected from the agonizing aspects of life. And that leads me to the second word I would like for us to ponder…the word ENDURANCE. The Greek word is UPOMONEE, and this word literally means “remaining steadfast when under great stress…REMAINING STEADFAST WHEN UNDER GREAT STRESS. That is the best way I know to describe Ed’s life…for me, that will be Ed Espenshade’s enduring legacy….ED REMAINED STEADFAST WHEN UNDER GREAT STRESS! In all the years I knew him…I never once heard him complain about the hand he had been dealt…not once did I ever hear him express any regrets about the direction his life had taken, or the challenges he was forced to face…Throughout his 15 year ordeal, Ed pushed thru the pain…he never gave up…he even wrote a book about it to inspire others. EDWARD MARTIN ESPENSHADE was a fighter…Ed fought the good fight…He finished the course…to the very end,he Kept the faith…Ed Ran With Endurance the Race that was set before Him!!
I want to conclude my homily by sharing an inspiring story…a true story …a story that I know Ed know would appreciate. It’s the story of a long distance runner from Tanzania (in East Africa) who finished in last place in the men’s marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. In 1968, four athletes were sent on the long journey from Tanzania to Mexico City in pursuit of Tanzania’s first-ever Olympic medal. None of these athletes won a medal, but one man,– JOHN STEPHAN AKHWARI – will always be remembered for his performance on Sunday, October 20th, 1968 in the Men’s Marathon.
Akhwari trained hard for the Olympics, but he was not prepared for the type of conditions he found in Mexico City. Mexico City is 2,300meters (or about 1.4 miles) above sea level and the thin air presented a formidable challenge for all 75 runners who stood at the starting line late that Sunday afternoon. Shortly after beginning the race, Akhwari began suffering from cramp as a result of the high altitude. Determined to improve his position, he pressed on, but was involved in a tangle of runners and he came crashing to the pavement. In falling, Ahkwari sustained significant injuries…a deep gash in his right leg, a dislocated right knee, and a badly bruised shoulder. Akhwari was advised by the physicians who attended to him to pull out of the race–but he insisted on continuing in spite of the intense pain he was suffering. After receiving some treatment and a bandage for his knee, Ahkwari pressed on determined to finish the race.
While the eventual Gold medalist (a fellow African runner from Ethiopia), was crossing the finish line to claim the gold medal, Akhwari was labouring in a distant last place, miles behind his nearest competitor. As darkness descended upon Mexico City and the crowd filtered out of the Olympic Stadium, a lone figure embarked on the final 800m of his journey. Television crews rushed back to their spots to capture the moment that John Stephen Akhwari limped over the finish line, over an hour behind the Gold medalist’ winning time of 2:20:26.4.
After the race, Ahkwari was interviewed by a journalist who asked him why he persevered in such punishing circumstances, Akhwari uttered one of the most memorable and inspirational lines ever spoken by an Olympic athlete: “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race,” he said. “My country sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”
Edward Martin Espenshade…thank you…Thank you for fighting the Good Fight…Thank you for finishing the course…Thak you for keeping the Faith! Ed THANK YOU…thank you from the bottom of our hearts for teaching us (by your life and by your death and by the heroic way you ran the race of your life…thank you for teaching us what it means to “Run with Endurance the Race that is set before US”…