Pastor’s ponderings

Hebrews 12:1 says, “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” (NRSV).  Now, I’ve heard this verse interpreted in a couple of ways over the years.  One way would say that we must be vigilant in all that we do here on earth, because someone is always watching us.  People stand on constant watch to see what “those Christians” will do in any given situation.  There are always witnesses to what we do, and it shows who we really are and what we truly believe.  Therefore, we must press on day-to-day, letting go of those things that hold us back, and set the best example for others that we can.

            Yet, the one problem I have with this interpretation hangs on the phrase “a cloud of witnesses.”  You see, this phrase does not actually mean the by-standers in our earthly life, but actually refers to those who have gone on before us, those who have already claimed the promise of the resurrection and are alive forevermore in heaven (among the clouds, as it was formerly understood).  In other words, it says that we have to live life to the fullest now, in respect for those that have already laid the groundwork for us, those that created the pathways for our faith, those that established and maintained our churches setting the example for us all.

            That is why, every year, on the first Sunday of November, our churches celebrate All Saints Sunday.  It is a time to remember those members, and people connected with our parish, who have claimed the promise of the resurrection during the prior year; those who lived life with us, walking alongside us in good times and in bad, guiding us, discipling us, providing us with an example for a life well lived here on earth in anticipation of the eternal life still to come.

            Which leads me to our pondering for today – when the time comes, will you be considered to be among the saints?  Are you walking alongside someone else in their faith journey here and now, mentoring them, providing an example for a life well lived, so that when your time comes to claim the promise of the resurrection, what you have done in this life will be remembered by those that still remain? 

I suppose then that both interpretations of the Hebrews passage are correct.  The cloud of witnesses encompasses both those here and those who have gone before us.  As such, our being a saint is not just about life hereafter, but also must be about life here and now.  Before we can be saints in heaven, we must be saints on earth as well.  We must continue to grow in our faith and provide an example for others to do the same.  How is God calling you to do so today?

                                                                        Always pondering,

                                                                        Pastor Steve

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