“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
District and Synod conventions include Memorial Services, at which we remember those servants whom the Lord has called to His nearer presence since the last time we gathered. Much like All Saints Day, it is a time to give thanks to God for the faithful witness of pastors, teachers, colleagues, mentors, friends, and family. Our heavenly Father has blessed us through those who spoke to us the Word of God in the home, in our congregations, and through the schools of the church. Each servant of Christ is able to look back and see many voices through which God’s Word was spoken to us both pastors and laity, men and women.
We consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith as we look to Jesus. For that is the task of parents and pastors, teachers and all servants in the church. Pointing people to Jesus is what faithful witnesses do. And while the voices of many of those who have spoken to us the Word of God have grown silent this side of eternity, many of their voices are still heard by their written and oral testimony about the risen Christ. After one of my former seminary professors died recently, I found myself listening to chapel sermons from the past online and returning to his essays. Down through the ages, the Lord has seen fit to bless the generations who follow with the testimony of the faithful from every age. From the early church to the Reformation to even those spiritual fathers in the faith who now rest from their labors, we have been surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses throughout time.
However, the focus is not on the witnesses themselves, but the one about whom they bear witness: Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Sunday school teachers and seminary professors alike have been used by God to point us to the One who bore the cross and our sins and rose triumphant over the grave. While we imitate their faith, it is never an adoration of a mere sinner. Rather, we run the race of faith with endurance looking to receive from our Lord all His good gifts. While those who spoke to us the Word of God may leave this veil of tears, God continues to use them as part of His great cloud of witnesses. Thanks be to God for their witness, but especially for the one to whom they have pointed, Jesus Christ.
Prayer – Almighty and everlasting God; You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan