Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
The writer of Hebrews has captured for the Jewish people a brief history and a beautiful summary of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Moreover, these passages capture the character of Christ’s past, present, and future interaction with humanity- for the development of the Christian faith as the Church.
I have often gone to Hebrews when I have felt confounded by the normal behavior of people. We can easily lose heart when we consider how one person can harm another or an entire population. Hebrews 12 is a shining example of the word of God redirecting us back into the “cloud of witnesses” needed to help us make it through a life of service and purpose.
I once heard Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball preach on this passage in which she made the case that the “witnesses” are not just those who have died and whose spirit is still with us. She understands these faithful ones as the persons who run with us the race of life. This illumination is more powerful when I think of all the support Jesus gives me through the Body of Christ, today, in the present. I am also more aware of others who journey with us. This includes those who hold us accountable to our convictions.
I remember a youth backpacking trip up into Camp Sturtevant in the San Gabriel Mountains. One of our 90-pound Jr. High boys arrived at the trailhead with a huge, full-framed backpack, loaded with 60+ pounds of gear and water. He was determined to carry this load, which his mother had packed for him, all four miles and 4,000 feet of elevation. It only took a few hundred yards before we started to re-distribute stuff from his backpack to the rest of the youth and counselors. This cloud of witnesses truly let us run with perseverance the race that (was) set before us. Even though he still was tired, we moved together to finish that hike as the church.
What a powerful experience it is to walk with Christ – the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
What do you need to do to remember that you do not walk alone?
Can we take a moment each day to abide in Jesus and listen to his pace and encouragement along the way?
Prayer: Lord, you blaze new trails for us when we follow your will. Give us strength for the journey. Amen.
Rev. James R. Powell
North District Superintendent