An Immense Sea of Witnesses

How would you like to die? Have you ever thought about it? If you asked my wife Lucy that question she would probably tell you the story about the last days her family got to spend with her grandmother. As the moment of her death came closer she kept saying over and over. “I love you all so much. I am so sad to leave you. It is so hard to say good bye.” Then she would tell them “I am so excited to see Jesus. I can’t wait to see those who have gone ahead of me.” This faithful women demonstrated the tension between 2 great loves that Christians live under. The love of people, whom God has placed in our care, and the longing to experience the gift of heaven that Jesus has been preparing for us. This past weekend we celebrated All Saints Day at Alpine. This is a festival day when we remember the Saints who have gone before us, celebrating their lives and the lessons they taught us.  In Hebrews 12 we have this image of a great cloud of witness, whose lives testify to the trust worthiness of God. They encourage and cheer us onward, inspiring us “to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Who are the saints that you remember? Who are the people who inspire you with their faith and courage? What are the lessons their lives speak to you?  Take time this week to remember. To listen to their cheers and not give up. There is a great promise that awaits us. There is a loving friend, Jesus, who is ready to greet us with open arms.

One of the lessons that I remember is from an elderly man in the first church I ever attended. He would always encourage me to “Be Thankful in everything I experience… the bad stuff along with the good.” I would often reply with “How in the world can you be thankful for the bad stuff?” His answer was rather simple but quite profound. “Because it helps us to see the good things we weren’t paying attention to before.”  The promise from God that we can often fall back on is not that bad things won’t happen, but that God (in many creative ways) will use the bad stuff to shape us into the people God calls us to be. Beyond that I am always grateful that throughout the bad times, I am never alone.

Geddes MacGregor in The Rhythm of God tells of a priest who, when asked,’How many people were at the early celebration of the Eucharist last Wednesday morning?’ replied, ‘There were three old ladies, the janitor, several thousand archangels, a large number of seraphim, and several million of the triumphant saints of God.’ Such a ‘cloud of witnesses’ answers a deep human urge to be part of something larger, to not stand alone, to give our little lives meaning. One drop of water, left alone, evaporates quickly. But one drop of water in the immense sea endures.”

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