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)
Once, I watched a drama unfold on the diving tower of an indoor swimming pool. A group of children were on the high tower taking turns trying to outdo one another. You name it, they tried it! These young buddies were performing for each other, challenging one another to greater feats of courage and daring. They also performed for the audience that was out of sight behind the glass partition of the observation deck. That's where I sat, with the other invisible witnesses in this waiting area.
One boy decided to try a back flip off the high tower, but he had a bad landing and hurt his back when he hit the water. He was sidelined for a bit while he caught his breath and assessed the damage. Then, with a fleeting glance towards the gallery of onlookers, he declared with certainty, "I'll live!" And he got back into the game.
We generally know when we're being watched. An audience inspires us to try a little harder, heal a little quicker, and overcome setbacks with a little more grace.
I couldn't believe my eyes when the littlest hero began to climb the ladder and walk to the end of the board. He shouted across the pool for his big brother to watch, and with a wave in the direction of his mom sitting beside me, he jumped, looking like a tiny exclamation mark hanging high above the water. But his older brother didn't hear him, and his mother had turned aside to answer a stranger's question. Who watched him?
Who watches us as we do deeds of daring and acts of kindness for others?
I got to thinking about the invisible cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews tells about. As sure as there were anonymous and invisible witnesses watching the action being played out on the diving board, cheering this little guy on, there are witnesses — unseen — watching us as we run our race and play our part in the divine drama of our lives. According to the writer of Hebrews, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses: the audience of the faithful departed, who assure us that endurance is possible.
Today's text urges all of us to run our races with perseverance, remembering that each of our races is not a quick dash to the finish line, but rather a marathon calling for strength and endurance.
But sometimes our struggle is disheartening. There are times when we think that no one is watching and that no one seems to care how well we are doing.
That is when we most need to remember that we are never alone, for those witnesses are not just spectators — they are our personal cheering section eagerly awaiting the finish of our race, ready to snap that picture of our Kodak Moment™ when we cross the finish line.
We are to achieve victory by looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Although He has taken His seat at the right hand of God, His Spirit is with us, gifting us with our "second wind". Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer: Eternal God, we thank You for the faithful departed, who inspire us and assure us that endurance is possible. Remind us that others, especially our children and grandchildren, will look to our lives of faith and be encouraged and inspired as we run our race, looking to Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending" (Lyrics)