This is Pastor Tim’s Article which appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, Oct 31, 2023
In the New Testament, there is a book called the Epistle to the Hebrews. When you read the Book of Hebrews, you will notice that it is actually the text of an ancient sermon. Some say it was preached by Paul or one of the other New Testament leaders who were contemporary to Paul. We may not be certain who preached this sermon, but we do know that a later council that compiled the Bible found it important enough to include as a part of the Christian Bible that we have today.
Truth be told, Hebrews is not my favorite book. It is a bit hard to understand, with some strange imagery and references to some obscure Old Testament details. The person who preached this sermon was obviously very familiar with the Old Testament, which makes sense considering the New Testament would not exist in any form close to what we have today for about another 400 years. Therefore, what we know as the Old Testament is all the scripture there was in the days of this sermon.
Many of those Old Testament references begin in chapter 11. In that chapter, we read about very familiar heroes such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses. However, in the same chapter, we also read about Abel, Enoch, and a figure named Jephthah, who sacrificed his daughter after winning a decisive victory in whatever war was going on at the time. There are all kinds of characters in this passage, all of them referenced for different reasons. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the “Hall of Fame of Faith.” It is where the preacher was helping his congregation be more aware of the people who had gone before them and allowed them to have the lives they had in their time.
The verse I would like you to ponder with me here for a moment is Hebrews 12:1. This verse comes directly after the listing of both the good and terrible examples of faith from Hebrews 11. Here is Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
What the preacher of the Book of Hebrews asked his congregation to do 2000 years ago is what we are still doing today. We are the product of so many people—parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, coaches, scout leaders, FFA directors, youth leaders, camp volunteers, and so on. I know that if I were going to write something like Hebrews 11, that would be a pretty long list because I am the product of a long line of saints and godly people, along with a few bad people thrown in. All of them taught me something and left a lasting mark on my life.
November 1 is All Saints Day, and most churches observe that holiday on the first day in November. Generally, this will include a reading of all the names of people who have passed away since the previous November and a special prayer. However, looking back at the saints is not what I want to use this article to do. I want us to look forward.
Do you know that the great cloud of witnesses is still ongoing today, and you and I are a part of it? Someday, the younger generation is going to be looking at their own cloud of witnesses. How are we doing providing that support? Are there enough church volunteers, coaches, leaders, and safe people who care working with those kids? Just as many of us remember the people who gave their time and effort to be that cloud of witnesses for us, we are building that cloud for future generations.
A day is going to come when you are going to be eligible to have your name read for an All Saints Service. Are you working in the life of a congregation enough that your name will be read? That doesn’t happen by accident; it comes from the intentional effort of good people.
Not often does anyone tell you to aspire to be a cloud, but that is exactly what I am doing today. There is a whole generation here today who needs a cloud of witnesses, and if the good people don’t create that cloud, then someone other than good people will inevitably form it. Are you okay with that?