This week, we reach the conclusion of our series on the Apostle’s Creed. We left the phrase “I believe in the communion of saints” to explore on All Saints Sunday. This Sunday, we will celebrate communion and honor the two members of New Life who have entered into the Church Triumphant as well as remember and celebrate all the many saints that have impacted our lives. Our Scripture this week comes from the book of Hebrews and begins near the end of the roll call of the faithful found in Chapter 11:
32And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— 38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.• What do you think of when you hear the word “saint”? What kind of person comes to mind? Do you think of yourself as a saint?
12Therefore, 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, 2looking 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. (Hebrews 11:32-12:2)
• Glance at chapter 11 and see the long list of names that are proclaimed for their faith. Think over their stories (if you are unfamiliar with them, look them up in a Bible Dictionary and find out something about them). Most of them (to borrow from Paul) were not wise by human standards, not powerful of noble birth nor did they always act much like saints. What made them worthy of mention?
• What does it mean to you say confess that you believe in the communion (that is fellowship) of the saints?
• Paul talks about us being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Would it make a difference in how you live your life and in how we do ministry in our congregation to imagine being surrounded by those who passed the gospel on to us?
• Notice that Paul says these witnesses to the faith did not receive what was promised so that they could receive something better? What was the better thing they received? And what is our role in their receiving the promise?
• Finally, reflect on those who first shared the gospel with you? Who shared it with them? Are you running the race in such a manner that honors their gift to you?
See you on Sunday!