I am surrounded.
And, the truth of the matter is, I have been my whole life.
Surrounded by those whose love and insight and wisdom and faith refused to let me go. Whether I was at my best. Or at my worst. Or, as is most often the case, trying to find my way somewhere between the two.
In ways known and unknown to me they (and you) have pushed and pulled and sacrificed and shared helping me to be and to become the person I am.
But, I am wrong about one thing.
The tense of the verbs.
That pushing and pulling and sacrificing and sharing is not past tense, but present. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…
For me, there was that Sunday School teacher who taught me how to read the Bible. I forget her name. She was for me much like Midge Keane has been for so many children here. I learned Bible verses then which even today, when I need a reminder of what I value and what I believe or a port in the storm, they somehow find their way back into the present moment from all those years ago. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…
And, then there were those who taught me how to pray and taught me that praying was about far more that just memorized words or the words a preacher said. And, there were those who helped me to realize that faith and God was about more than Sunday morning or about a specific building in a specific place. And, that the best of faith was about compassion and kindness and awe and gratitude and not about dogma and doctrine or the right way or wrong way to read the Bible or to do things on a Sunday morning. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…
I think you know what I mean because you are surrounded, as well. A young man, now in his thirties, whom I have known since he was 14 sent me an email a couple weeks ago which included this quote which he knew I would like.
“There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ [person]. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”
(George Matthews Adams)
We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.
So, this morning…
On the day after Halloween when the goblins and ghosts were free to roam, the Christian community gathers to commemorate All Saints Day. Remembering and celebrating all those, known and unknown to us, whose faith has inspired and helped and dreamed and encouraged and walked and sacrificed and planned and debated and torn down and built up so we might be here today. So you might be here today.
And, more important than your being here…
So you might be who you are today.
Not past tense, but present.
We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness…
That being true, here is what I invite you to do. I invite you to remember one or two or three of the saints whose witness continues to surround your life.
Remember their names.
See their faces.
Hear their voices.
And, as you do say Thank you for who they were and who they are and how their lives and their witness and their presence touched and touches and changed and transforms your life. But, we are not going to stop there.
If the witness of the Bible is correct, we remember that cloud of witnesses not for the sake of nostalgia, but so we can run the race before us. So that we can strive to be who we are called to be and to do what we are called to do. We are to run that race with vision and perseverance and faith and hope. That being the case, what I would like you to do next is this.
Name what it is those saints taught you.
Or, inspired in you.
Or, awakened in you.
Or, challenged you to do or to be.
It is those gifts…
Which is important.
And having acknowledged those gifts in your heart and mind what I would like you to do then is to write it down. Write it down on the tablecloth that is on our communion table this morning. A concrete witness to that cloud of witnesses who surround you and surround us. Then, as you return to your seat, receive communion as a holy reminder of that communion of saints and of your place and part in it.
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…