Dear Friends in Christ,
Last week and this week our 2nd reading has been from the book of Hebrews and contains some of the most meaningful words in the Bible. Last week: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And this week: “ 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 perfector 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.
This week’s Hebrews reading makes it clear that the early church understood suffering to be signs of devotion to the gospel. What does this mean for us, for whom striving for even the minimum of material peace would still rank as luxury in the eyes of the early church? And what does it mean for us to speak of dedication to a God who at times doesn’t appear to reciprocate dedication?
Despite the difficult and challenging readings today, that encouraging verse emerges in Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, . . . let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1). Most of us, children included, carry a fondness for those who have shaped our lives and our faith—parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, Sunday school teachers, and pastors, maybe even the people we regularly sit near in worship. May we give thanks for those in the great cloud of witnesses who have shaped our faith and may we be included in their number.
Faithfully, Hopefully, and Lovingly,
Jeffery Alvestad, Pastor