Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A cloud of witnesses

In the fall of 1993, Port Orchard’s football team made it to the state championship. Ed Fisher, the coach, was a good friend and member of our congregation. I was the youth director for several kids on the team. We perched high in the upper deck of the Tacoma Dome to watch the climactic game, cheering for our home-town team.

Hebrews 12 starts out with these words: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses …” The older I get, the less I like crowds. Going to the State Fair is an exercise in endurance for me these days. I keep thinking about making the effort to get to a Vikings game, but I haven’t been there yet – not because of the expense so much, but because of the crowd. This sense of a “crowd” is not at all what Hebrews 12 is talking about.

In the last chapter – Hebrews 11 – the author runs through a catalog of heroes from the Bible. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Deborah, and a bunch more – this long list of heroes who lived by faith, waiting for God to fulfill his promises, is the “cloud of witnesses.”

Who’s in your cloud? Who are the witnesses who have inspired your faith? Some may be Bible characters. I’ve always been partial to Barnabas in the New Testament. But many of those witnesses who surround you like a cloud are the people who have passed on faith to you. I think of my Grandma Krogstad listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford sing the Hymns of the Faith on her old record player. Or my Grandma Pederson singing “My Jesus, I Love Thee” in the back row at Faaberg Lutheran Church when I was about nine. Mom and Dad are there in that cloud, both faithful followers of Jesus who rest with him now. My sister-in-law Arlene, who used to tell me “I thought pastors and priests were these holy people, until you became one” – Arlene had a fun-loving relationship with Jesus that carried her from this life into heaven last winter.

There is a great cloud of people surrounding you and me like the masses in the stadium at a football game. We are still on the playing field – but the cheers of the cloud (not crowd) spur us on.

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