Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
When my grandfather walks into Milligan Springs Baptist Church on Sunday morning, he has to walk by the cemetery, which has served the families from the surrounding farms for 130 years. From the front porch of the church, he can see the grave of his mother, his father, his sister, his daughter, and more cousins than you can count. When he kneels in prayer, he is literally surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
The Church did not start the day that you were baptized. Thousands of years before you were born, Abraham made a covenant with God, Moses parted the Red Sea, David danced before the ark, Esther saved her people, Isaiah prophesied repentance, Mary said yes to an angel, Peter walked on water, Stephen proclaimed the gospel while being stoned to death, and Paul lit a fire around the Mediterranean Sea. Responding to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, saints such as Benedict, Alban, Theresa, and Bonhoeffer have expanded the Kingdom of God and become models of faith. We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
But the most significant witnesses are not the famous ones, but the people who bore witness to the good news of Christ in your life, like an old rancher named Billy Bob who taught my Sunday school class or my grandmother who shines with a holy wisdom. All of these people have been running the race, but now it is your turn.
As we gather together on Sunday morning to hear the Word of God and share in Christ’s Body and Blood, we do so surrounded by a great cloud of witness. And we join in the race. Take some time to reflect on the witnesses of God’s love in your life and how you are to respond in the present.
The Rev. Michael Hoffman is the rector of St. Peter's in McKinney