Monthly Archives: October 2014

A Cloud of Witnesses

Our Celebration of the Faithful was once again a needed reminder of the “cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us and who both inform and help complete our faith. Contrary to the illusion of relentless individualism, we are indeed indebted. Probably more so than we could fathom even if we were to try.
First of all, we are fundamentally indebted to God beginning with the initial breath we take. From this essential element of life, every step we take thereafter (both literally and figuratively) we owe to others. Given this reality, it is incumbent upon us to embrace and celebrate our indebtedness rather than resent or “outgrow” our inherent neediness.
So we purpose to acknowledge the faithful lives of the saints that we might be encouraged to also be faithful witnesses today and for future generations, “Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful,” is certainly an appropriate song to call us on.
To that end, this year we learned about David Duplessis, the “donkey”, who humbly sought unity in the larger body of Christ. We were reminded of the remarkable transformation and subsequent steadfast witness of Nixon’s “Hatchet Man”, Charles Colson. The short but powerful life of Borden of Yale served as an implicit indictment of our often complacent lives. “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.”
Samuel Lamb was a frail and weak man made powerful and effective by God to lead the Underground church in China. His 20 years of imprisonment and “re-education” by Chinese communist merely served to strengthen and deepen his cheerful trust in God. We learned that the activism of Cesar Chavez was informed and motivated by his radical faith.
Richard Wurmbrandt reminds us both of the constant presence of the Lord to sustain in unimaginable circumstances as well as the current persecutions and martyrdom today of Christians throughout the world. Isn’t the very least we can do is to be mindful of and pray for our brothers and sisters today?
We were given a “first person” account from Elizabeth Eliot of her courtship and marriage to Jim Eliot, who, along with faithful partners became a martyr in Ecuador. Incredibly, Elizabeth and Rachel Saint (sister of one of the martyrs) went on to live among and minister to those who had murdered their beloved.
This is what faith looks like. It is all the more remarkable therefore, that Hebrews 11 states,…”that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (RSV) Peterson in The Message translates this truth as, “God had a better plan for us, that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole; their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.” (Heb. 11:40)
So gird up your loins. Joyfully celebrate and embrace your indebtedness in all its glory! And give thanks by living lives of faithfulness and partnership.