So, in Sunday School we’re beginning to study Hebrews. This pleases me because Hebrews is probably my favorite book of the Bible. It’s full of uplifting and encouraging passages to inspire you, but also challenges you to be a better Christian even when you can’t (and probably won’t) see the fruits of your labor.
Hebrews was also the topic of the sermon in church today, so apparently God wanted to make sure I was paying attention to it. Here’s the verse from today’s sermon:
“1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The verse came up today because it is the Sunday we celebrate All Saints Day and remember those who have passed on, specifically those passed away in the last year. During prayer people said the names of loved ones they lost this year. It’s beautiful and touching and heartbreaking all at the same time. These people are our “great cloud of witnesses.”
Now, once you start thinking about people who have passed this last year, you can’t really stop there. Pastor Scott talked about how we are the legacy of the people who showed us their faith and introduced Jesus to us. In turn, the people we share our witness with will be our legacy. So, I started thinking back to those who encouraged me and taught me that are no longer with us. Here are just a few:
Betty Vyse – Betty was the Sunday School Superintendent at our church when I was little. She was a force of nature! To my little eye, she ran Sunday School with so much organization and she was fun! I’m pretty sure it was her who taught me “The B-I-B-L-E” song and the little ditty I still sing when I’m trying to remember the books of the New Testament.
Ruth Rawdin – She was one of our upper elementary grade Sunday School teachers. You felt grown up when you got to her class. At that time, boys and girls had a separate classes and I loved being in that room full of girls. We also got a PIX comic/handout each week and I couldn’t wait to go home and read it.
Era Preston – Another force of nature! She loved God and was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. She was the epitome of a servant leader. She could preach a sermon and then serve 12 for dinner like it was nothing. She held our church together during some very rough times and she looked good doing it. She was one of the first women I heard address domestic abuse and say that no woman should be treated that way and that if you were in a relationship like that to get out.
Jan Holbrook – Jan was our 6th grade Sunday School teacher and the mother of one of my best friends growing up. (Hi Holly!) She would tackle subjects at our request. (Ever try teaching Revelation to sixth graders?) And, she always made me feel at home when I was with their family. A wonderful example of unconditional love.
This is very short list (and doesn’t even include my family) but these were some of the women who came to mind today as I was in prayer. I thank God for them (and all the ones not named) and know I wouldn’t be where I am today with their influence and their tireless efforts.
We’re told that we’re never alone—that Christ is with us always. Thinking about coupling that closeness with Christ and the great cloud of witnesses lifting me up and encouraging me brought me a real sense of comfort and peace today. I hope it brings you comfort and peace too.
Peace be with you!