All Saints Sunday 
Grace Lutheran Church 
Lakeland, FL 
November 1, 2020 

Revelation 7:9-17 
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
I John 3:1-3 
Matthew 5:1-12

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this morning is Hebrew 12:1:

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.

Some of you have heard me describe a race in my life. In 1986 I had been running for a few years – every morning or after work in the late afternoon. I had a regular circuit that I ran of about 2 miles. My cousin Kathy who lives in Minneapolis was also a runner.

We had the opportunity to run a classic race in the Tampa Bay area – the “Bay to Bay.” It starts at the far western end of St. Petersburg at Boca Ciega Bay and continues all the way across the peninsula to Tampa Bay – a distance of about 7 miles or so. It’s a tough race because we run straight into the sun on a Sunday morning late in May – bright sun, hot weather, long distance, absolutely straight route.

Well, that morning as we set out on this run, I must tell you that I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. So, I set a goal, a very modest goal for the race. First, I wanted to finish. Second, I had a time goal of something like an 18 minute mile. Kathy was better prepared than I. She and I ran together for the first mile or so and then she looked back at me and asked me to let her go and run her race. Of course!!! Go! Run! See you at the end! And then she set out on her race and I set out on mine.

Now, I have to tell you that after Earl and our youngest, Matt, sent me and Kathy off on our runs, they went out ahead of us on the course. They were there to cheer us on. After we saw each other on the route, they then went on ahead to greet each of us at another point and then another.

As I ran this race, I found my pace and it wasn’t fast. I put one foot in front of the other, step after step. I saw Earl’s cheer at various times along the route. I knew that he was there through it all. I got very very tired. I stopped sweating about halfway through.

The pace that I set was one that matched to singing Jesus loves me this I know. It’s not a fast pace but it’s a steady one. It comes as no surprise of course that I ran in the back of the pack. So there were medics to be sure that we were safe. I slowed my pace to talk to them – I think I’m OK, I’m not sweating and that worries me, but I can continue on. “You’re good to go” they’d say. And then several blocks later they would check in with me again. Yup, still OK. Not fast, but still OK.

And then at long last, I entered the final stages. Oh my there was nothing like that. My cousin Kathy was watching for me. She was there cheering me on – Pam, you’re doing it! you’re making your goal! keep it up, you’re almost there!! I pushed on, I didn’t know if I even had an ounce of energy left. This race was hard.

Finally ahead of me was the finish line.

I will never forget the man without a name who ran the last few steps with me. And he said to me “Good finish.” Now, I’m sure that he had finished hours earlier and had gone home and showered and come back for folks like me. Then there was Kathy who greeted me at the end and said – Pam, you did it!!

I had run a race that many participated in. A race that I could not have run alone. A race that I finished. I could do this because of the many who encouraged me along the way – those who kept pace with me, those who were on the sidelines to urge me on, those who were there at the end of the race to urge me on to the final steps.

They could be encouragers to me because they had run similar races in times past – races where they hadn’t been as prepared as they might have liked, races through hot and exhausting times, races where they needed someone else to tell them they were OK to continue running. Races where the goal was as simple as finishing within a very modest time goal.

A great cloud of witnesses. In the church we call them saints.

Let’s look at the what the writer of the Revelation says about them –

There is a great multitude, more than anyone can count. They come from every tribe and nation and language and people. But they have in common this – they all stand around the throne of the Lamb and praise God. And they have all come through great ordeals, great tribulations.

There are many ordeals and tribulations today. I know that many of you are going through them right now. Could be a difficult time with your health. Or loneliness might be eating you alive. Fear and worry for the future may be a weight on your shoulders. Grief and sadness may be your constant companions.

I can’t fix your health or that of your loved one. I can’t assure you that your retirement account will double in ten years or last thirty more. I can’t fill that hole of grief in your heart any more than you can fill mine.

But this is what I know – we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses urging us on, cheering for us as we run this race. Sitting with us as we wait for the results of surgery. Praying for us when we don’t even know it. Weeping with us as we grieve. Comforting us as we worry.

This cloud of witnesses is the church – the faithful across all time and space. The faithful gathered today. And those who are no longer living in this world. Saints who are models for us. Saints who are right there with us as we run the race. Saints who cheer us on from the side lines. And embrace us at the finish line when we get to the other side of “through.”

Who do you count as saints? Certainly those long recognized by the Church – St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Mary, St. Matthew, St. John and the hundreds of others.

But think of the saints around you right now – my saints are Earl, my sons, Jeff, Jay and Matt, my dearest friends, Mark, Amy, Lance, Brian, Deb, Melody, and the list goes on. Saints whom God has placed in my life. And God has placed saints in your life as well. Take a moment and think about the others.

Get their names in your mind. Imagine their faces. Hear their voices. Feel their embrace. See their eyes. These are here with you right here and right now. Perhaps you would like to light a candle in honor and remembrance, even if they are still alive.

Since then 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.

May it be so. Amen.


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