Please pray with me – May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.
The text for this morning’s meditation is found in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews – Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Have you been in a situation where you were cheered on by folks on the side lines? One of my experiences with this was in 1987 when I ran the Bay to Bay race in St. Petersburg. It’s about 10k, maybe 7 miles straight across the peninsula that is Pinellas County. The race that year was on Memorial Day weekend. My cousin Kathy came down from Minneapolis to run it with me. This was a hard race for me. But along the sidelines, on the south side of the street were Earl and our youngest son Matt, who was about 10 at the time. They would be there waiting for me to get to their spot. I would look for them all along the way. I didn’t know where they would be – we hadn’t worked all that out. But they made their presence known as they saw me – and then I saw them. It was a long hot run, but there they were, cheering me on. I would pass them and then they would move on to the next spot they had selected. I would run. They would wait. I would look. They would cheer. And that’s how it all went that Sunday morning.
Today is All Saints Day and we remember those who have gone before us. We each have a cloud of witnesses – those people who have helped shape our faith, those who have urged us on. Who are the “saints” in your life who are part of this cloud of witnesses now cheering you on? These witnesses need not have passed to the Church Triumphant – they may still be alive. Please take a moment and think of their names. Besides my beloved family, three of mine are Mr. Treblehorn, my 3rd grade Sunday School teacher; Katie Grover, a woman of faith who led a neighborhood Bible study that opened Scripture to me in a whole new way 30 years ago; Pr. John Johnson who instilled in me a love of Greek and encouraged me in so very many ways along this path; and Prs. Amy, Lance and Mark who are dear colleagues from seminary. Well that may be six, but you get my drift. OK, get your three in mind. Plant them firmly there. They are cheering you on along this race.
(PAUSE) Last week we spoke about stewardship in the life of the disciple – we each are disciples and we are called to use the gifts that God has given us to further the Kingdom of God. We recognized that we are each radically gifted and we saw that we each are called to be radically generous.
Now, let’s make a bit of a switch. Let’s not think about stewardship as only an individual responsibility. Let’s think about this family of faith, this community of believers here at Grace Lutheran Church. This family of faith has been given time, talent, and treasure. This family of faith has been radically gifted.
The gift of time – how do we use this gift here at Grace? Do we as a family “tithe” of our time here? Do we spend 10% of our time in ministry to others? Of the time that we spend in ministry to others, how much of that is spent with others who are not members?
And this family of faith has received gifts and skills and abilities. How do we as a family use these gifts and skills and abilities – these “talents”? Can it be said that we as a family tithe with regard to our talents? How many of our gifts are used here at Grace and how many are used in ministries outside of the family?
And of course, we have been given the gift of treasure. On what do we use these financial resources? Are we tithing? Do we give generously to ministries outside of our family?
Brothers and sisters, this is very important – I am not saying we are not doing these things. The point is not “Are we giving 10%.” The point is “Are we engaged in radical generosity in light of the radical gifts we have received?” The gifts that have been placed into our hands are placed there for the simple purpose of furthering the Kingdom of God.
Now, my friends, we as individuals and we as a family of faith do not give SO THAT we can stay in good-standing with God. Rather, since we are in good-standing with God because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and THEREFORE we give.
Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Please look back in your mind’s eye.
What is the race that is set before us? What is the challenge that we are drawn to? What is the deepest need of those around us?
Who do you see along the sidelines cheering us on here at Grace? Who is in our great cloud of witnesses? There are pastors of times past. There are council members of times past. There are Gophers and volunteers of all sorts. There is Brother Martin, St. Paul, St. Teresa, St. John and more than we can name here.
All of these hands joining together to cheer, assist, encourage, support us in the race that is set before us. Lace up your running shoes! God’s work. Our hands.