Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bethany Bullet - September 10, 2013

Hebrews 12:1a “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” 

We are surrounded.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews states this case as a point of fact!  This is indisputable!  There is no doubt about it, there is no need to argue the case, there is no possibility of denying the reality – we are surrounded!  

Is being surrounded for good or ill? 

Well if you’re sitting in a dingy with no one watching but an occasional sea gull and there are fins rotating around the raft…

THAT is far different matter than if you’re standing on home plate with a stadium crowd on its feet and team mates dancing and jumping around you, right! 

Who it is that surrounds us and the reason for which we are being surrounded determines the good or ill of our surrounding. 

Who is it that surrounds us? It is a “great cloud of witnesses.” Here’s the rub, unlike sharks or team mates, the “cloud” surrounds us because of who THEY are – or to be more theologically accurate, they surround us because of Whose they are!  In the text proper these are they who have had their robes washed white in the Blood of the Lamb; these are the faithful who have finished the course, the people of God who have run the race, the departed who have kept faith. These are they who have died in saving faith and now rest from their labors.  This cloud is comprised of those who now take up occupancy in the mansion prepared for them, the folk in heaven!!!

For the first readers of this text this cloud was comprised of the Old Testament faithful.  Of course, they still surround us, but they are not alone! The advantage we have over the Hebrews who first read Hebrews is that the cloud that surrounds us has grown substantially. Massing on the horizon day-by-day is the surrounding cloud. The cloud is the crowd of faithful now surrounding the throne. While they surround the throne in thanks and praise they surround us as example and encouragement for which we ought to give thanks and praise.

Unlike the actress on stage or the athlete on the field, those that surround us aren’t there to observe us; rather they surround us that we might observe them…more specifically that we might take a look at their walk of faith as we run the race of faith ourselves. 

Whether or not they can see and do cheer us on is not the relevant point of the text. What is relevant is there are those who have gone before us, whose stories and testimonies currently surround us and affirm for us that the life of faith, that the journey of discipleship, that the race is one that can be run to a joyful end. 

As we begin our parish theme we need to start with that which is also unarguable among us, Heaven is a gift!  This gift is one that we do not deserve. No race not matter how well run can earn heaven. For our best progress and our purest steps are still sin stained and a disgrace when compared to God’s righteousness. That is the reason Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem and ran His race to the place of the skull – the Cross of Calvary.

As we run the race, we are surrounded. Why? So that we might find strength and encouragement to continue in what is often a long and laborious, hard and heartbreaking route – life, even the Christian life. 

The source and power to trust and follow Christ is found in word and sacrament.  Faith is a gift, one that God has worked in your heart and mine through the Good News found in print, poured in water, heard in proclamation or put into your hand and mouth at the Lord’s Supper.   Strength and encouragement to run the race, on the other hand, is often found in other Christians

In other words, as one who has come to faith through the message given in word and sacrament you find encouragement for your walk in the walks of others who have, even some who are still, journeyed on that same path.  

The Cloud surrounds us that we might find strength and encouragement for the race.  That means, you are not alone in what you are going through!  You are not the first to endure this.  Are your kids breaking your heart?  Adam and Eve buried a son who died at the hands of his brother and yet they clung to the promise of the Father of an offspring to crush the serpents head. So they ran their race. They surround us! Do your parents have you perplexed, the generation that left Egypt died in the desert because the got off track, but their kids continued to hold on to the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, they crossed into it.  They surround us.  Have you wondered what God was thinking?  Sarah laughed, not the funny kind, but the, “You gotta be kidding me God” kind of laugh.  Yet, God did what she doubted and she named her son “Laughter” (Isaac) in honor of God and she ran her race.  She is among those that surround us. 

Is your guilt always before you? It was in David’s case, he said so in one of his Psalms.  Every time he saw his wife Bathsheba, David remembered that she was once another man’s wife.  Do those words of the past still haunt you?  How many times did Peter wake from a deep sleep covered in sweat, tires streaming down his cheeks, the words ringing in his ears, “get behind me Satan!”?   Yet both were restored.  “The Lord has taken away your sin.”  “Feed my sheep.” And they ran their race.  They surround us.   And not them alone! 

Is the need overwhelming and you’re not sure where to start? Mother Teresa began with the one in front of her and she knelt with the poor and wretched and thus ran her race.  Is the state, or even church, demanding obedience to that which is unbiblical?  It was in Luther’s case yet he took his stand and in so doing ran his race.  This pair surrounds us!  And not them alone!  Those who’ve finished their race millennia ago and those who completed the course mere months ago, and those whose course has led them to sit by you this morning and give witness to you about the life of faith…as a great cloud they surround us for THIS purposestrength and encouragement to run with and for Christ is often found in other Christians and as a great cloud, they surround us.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Hit Counter