Wednesday, March 5, 2014

So Great A Cloud of Witnesses

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.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children -

"My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts."

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:1-14

I meant to write something very different today since it is Ash Wednesday. Last night, after arriving home from our parish Pancake Supper, I found out that Deacon Terry Star had died sometime early yesterday morning. My heart is on the ground. This young man was truly a star, a loving light and a tender friend. He did not take himself so seriously, but took his ministry and relationships seriously. Today he stands with the great pillars of faith, among the great cloud of witnesses to the love and abiding presence of God. His race is finished all to early, but his life inspires us to strive on.

This passage from Hebrews has always been a favorite of mine. Paul writes to encourage us to "lift or drooping hands and strengthen our weak knees" for in so doing we are bringing healing and new life for everyone. our little times of discipline and trials are minimal for God is with is through the toughest days, the roughest terrain and the worst weather. God is a loving parent who sometimes gathers his young to heaven to soon, but is with us in our deepest loss.

Today, as we begin Lent, I ask God to give the the persistence to not lose heart, the strength to endure the hard times, and the creativity to imagine beyond today's struggles. May we know, in this time of penitence and discipline, that God has more to give us that we can even imagine, and God is with us on the mountain tops and the deepest valleys of our grief.

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