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Sunday, November 3, 2013
Today’s Reading | Hebrews 12:1–2
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. (NRSV)
A few years ago I officiated at the funeral of one of our members who was a retired minister. Jack, for that was his name, was a warm, caring man who had served his country in the military, trained for ministry, and then served faithfully for many years in parish ministry in downstate Illinois. He and his wife raised their family, who had all ventured out into the world with successful careers and raised their own families, all the while keeping close to their parents who had retired to Chicago. It was during retirement that Jack and his wife made Fourth Church their church home, and it was always a delight for me to spend time with Jack over a lunch or on Sunday after worship. He was a person of great wisdom.
As I was preparing for the funeral service and talking with his family we reflected on this life well lived. At one point, attempting to ground the discussion in reality, his wife interjected, “Now Calum, let’s remember that Jack is not a saint.”
I know what she was trying to say—that for all of his strengths, Jack was a human being with flaws, and we were not to pretend otherwise. However, I responded to her comment by saying, “Actually Jack is a saint. In the true biblical meaning, Jack is a saint.”
In the New Testament the term saint does not refer to a perfect, holy, special person, but to those who sought to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us”; those who seek to follow Jesus, however flawed they may be, knowing that those who went before cheer them on in that “great cloud of witnesses” of which saint Jack is now a part.
For all the saints, who from their labors rest, Hallelujah. Amen.
Written by Calum I. MacLeod, Executive Associate Pastor
and Head of Staff
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