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Sunday, April 24, 2016

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)

I have always been moved by this scripture. Growing up in the church, I knew many people of faith who have moved on from this earthly realm. Those are the people I picture when I read this passage: my grandparents, my mom, and those “church people” who were my guides and role models—those members of the church and the denomination I grew up in who have died, those Presbyterian leaders like Jack Stotts or Elam Davies or Dana Ferguson who influenced me here at Fourth Church.

I always envision my cloud of witnesses in the balconies overlooking the sanctuary at Fourth Church (even though many of them have never been to the church). I think of them particularly when I am facing a situation that challenges my faith. I imagine them up there cheering me on and encouraging me to follow in their footsteps. Not that they were always perfect, but they did their best to follow Jesus’ teachings and example. And now they have their reward.

When I picture them that way, it reminds me that I am just a part of a much larger story, one that will conclude long after I have followed in the footsteps of those who have gone before. That knowledge—that I am not the only one to have gone through these earthly struggles—gives me such great encouragement. It helps me focus on the fact that I am part of a story that God has been working on and will continue to work on long after I have moved on.

Lord, thank you for my great cloud of witnesses and for providing me with earthly role models who have been my models in this life. Please lead me, as you did them, to contribute to your work in this world. Amen.

Written by Juli Crabtree, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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