Relay For Life Sunday

This coming Saturday, the annual Relay for Life event will take place in Frankfort, at the Convention Center from 4:00pm to midnight.  This year’s theme is based around board games. The logo for the event this year is taken from two board games,  “The Game of Life” and “Sorry,”:  “ Relay for Life: Sorry Cancer, we’re in it to win it!”  This morning let’s reflect on this theme as we lift up all the activities that take place at Relay.

The Relay for Life event begins with the Opening Ceremony.  The Opening Ceremony brings everyone together for a high-energy event kickoff that celebrates the lives of those who have battled cancer and reminds us all that while we are winning this battle, fighting cancer is a year-round priority.   “Sorry Cancer, we’re in it to win it!”  The gathering of so many people, focused on the same goal of eliminating cancer, reminds all of us that we are not alone.  That we stand together.  And that God goes with us.   Our aim is to paint the world purple.

The first activity that takes place at Relay is the Survivors Lap. Cancer survivors take the first lap around the track. Cheered on by the other participants and the sound of upbeat music, the Survivors Lap lets all cancer survivors at the event celebrate their victory over cancer.   While not everyone survives their fight with cancer, we make sure to celebrate with those whose fight continues.  As these survivors take their lap, we echo with them, “Sorry Cancer, we’re in it to win it!”

Another important group involved in the Relay event is the Caregivers.  During the Caregivers Lap, anyone who ever cared for someone with cancer walks a special lap so they can be honored.  Caretakers not only do all they can to help care for a loved one who faces cancer; their determination echoes the theme, “Sorry Cancer, we’re in it to win it!”

At the candlelight Luminaria Ceremony we remember loved ones lost to cancer, support people who currently have cancer, and honor people who fought cancer in the past. It's a powerful part of the event because it provides an opportunity for people to work through grief and find hope.  

As people of faith, we use times like this to remind ourselves that God is with us and with those whom we remember. Here these words of Scripture:

From Isaiah 41:  “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

From Romans 8:  “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or peril, or sword? 37. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39. nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

During the Luminaria Ceremony, candles are lit in honor of people who are dealing with cancer and in memory of those who lives ended because of cancer.  This morning, we will light this candle to remember these ones.  (LIGHT CANDLE ON TABLE)  Now let us bow for a time of prayer.  I will pray for a time, and then come to a pause.  When I pause, please respond with “Hear us, O Lord of life.”   Let us pray.

“Giver of life, your will for all people is fullness of life and salvation.  For this we give thanks.   (PAUSE:  “Hear us, O Lord of Life.”)

“You sent us your son so that we might have life, and have life abundantly.  For this we give thanks.  (PAUSE:  “Hear us, O Lord of Life.”)

“O Spirit of God, we know that your presence goes with us in this life, and carries us into life forever.  For this hope of new life of resurrection, we give thanks.  (PAUSE…)

“This morning, O Lord, we remember loved ones whose lives were cut short because of cancer. We give thanks for their lives, and we give thanks for the hope of resurrection.  For this we give thanks(PAUSE…)

“O God of healing, we lift up not only these ones who have gone to be with you.  We lift up as well all those who continue to suffer with lives wracked by cancer.  We pray for your mercy on these lives.  (PAUSE…)

“We pray for comfort and relief, we pray for healing, we pray for your presence into uncertain futures.  We pray for mercy.  (PAUSE…)

“We pray for caretakers and family members, we pray that you grant them strength and courage in their own lives.  We pray for mercy. (PAUSE…)

“We pray for physicians, and nurses, and for those who work so faithfully in research.  We pray that you grant wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience.  We pray for mercy.   (PAUSE…)

“We pray that you grant to the dying a sense of peace and holiness, a reminder of your grace and comfort.  And uphold the loved ones of these who are dying.  We pray for mercy.  (PAUSE…)

“And God, we long for the day when there will be no more suffering, no more tears and pain, no more death, no more cancer.  We pray for that day, and that we might see you more fully on that day.  We pray for that day.  (PAUSE)

“Heal us and make us whole.  We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”

The final part of the Relay for Life event is the Closing Ceremony.  In this closing ceremony, we celebrate, we remember, and we recommit ourselves to continuing the fight against cancer over the next year.  Because, “Sorry Cancer, we’re in it to win it!”

Now let us close this time with a prayer of commitment, for this year’s Relay for Life and for all the ways God calls us to be God’s people.  

Let us pray.  “O God, you love us and comfort us with your presence.  Now help us to listen for and look for how we might be people who love and comfort. Help us not only to participate in this Relay for Life, but help us to make our lives more open to how we might be a people who care for others in need.  Show us how we might cry and laugh with those in need; show us how we might hold hands with those who suffer and are alone.   Show us how to be for others each day of life.  We can dare pray this because we know that your Son has done all of this and more in our own lives.  So we pray this prayer in his name.  Amen.”