Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us
Such a great cloud of witnesses, this is the family of God, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, throughout time and space; we sometimes speak of the saints in warfare and the saints at rest, those here and those who have gone before. Together we are one in Jesus through faith. Though sometimes we don’t feel it. We certainly don’t see this huge crowd here today. We see the Australian government, not God’s; we ring up our own families, not our brother King David; and often we can even forget that yes we do have brothers and sisters even in the Pope’s Church. In this day and age, you might feel cut off from the saints suffering overseas, thinking ‘they’re not my people’ or even those here today, separated by history, ideals or politics; some Christians even think that it’s just them and Jesus, and aren’t concerned about other Christians. Sometimes we just feel alone and abandoned in our faith, that it’s just us against the world, or that we have to face our sin alone, that no one else will help; ultimately that government, family, church and everything else is dying, and we can not endure.
But that’s not what God tells us here. Even if you feel like you’re all alone, like it’s just you against evil, even loosing hope whether you can hold on in the end; that’s not the truth. Rather you, all of us, are surrounded by those who have gone before, struggled against the evil in the world and the sin in their own lives, and have been brought to rest by God Himself. It’s like those kids across the road cheering for their school mates to keep going. I got a story like that. When I used to row we had training on those rowing machines and if you’ve never been on one, it’s hard full body work. There were only two machines so you had to wait your turn, but when you got on it was 20minute intense interval training always finishing with a final push and you’d sometimes fall off at the end with jelly-legs. You’d be pushing yourself trying to keep up with what the coach set for you, but it was hard work and you’d start to slack off, but your rowing mates would always be there yelling, ‘come on, long and strong, keep it up, keep it up, come on just 1 more minute hard, you can do it, keep it up, finish strong!’ didn’t make it any easier but it helped get you through. These people knew what you were going through, knew how hard it was, they had struggled with it as well, often through on harder settings than me, and they had done it. Now after finishing they didn’t just abandon me, but they came to encourage me. And today Our Lord is reminding you that you are not alone, we can imagine grandstands full of Christians yelling their silent encouragements to you. Others have gone this way before, and the race can be finished, there is an end in sight, so endure and don’t loose hope!
And look to the end, Jesus the founder and finisher of our faith, don’t be distracted. You might instead focus on the tasks for today, the laundry, dishes, meals, and forget about Jesus, about His promises. You might instead hear again the news, drug addiction, murder, suicide, civil war, and forget that Jesus is powerful to save, that is why He came. You might instead look at your mistakes, failures, how you could’ve or should’ve done something, and forget that Christ has forgiven you and that The Holy Spirit is still working now and into the future. In this life we are distracted and loose sight of Christ, like Peter walking on the water we begin to sink; but just like Peter, look to Jesus who is pulling you through the distraction and suffering of this life to be perfected with Him in the end. And yes, you are not perfect, neither am I, there is something better to come in Jesus, to be free from your own sin and from the sin of others, for us all to be made new together with Christ; having His desires His peace, joy, love and life! That is the goal at the end of our race, together with all the saints who have gone before, Moses, Elijah, Paul, your faithful ancestors, those suffering around the world now and all those who will come after. Together, not in dribs and drabs, Noah’s still waiting, but God knows the best is that we finish together, made perfect by Jesus altogether at the end.
Remember how He has sustained His people throughout time, the Roman persecutions, the Muslim conquests, rejection of the humanity of Indian Christians and Chinese persecution for shy of 2000yrs, theological struggles and abuse in the Reformation, persecution and corruption under communism and Hitler, and still murders across the globe today. Here we just have a soft rejection where you might be mocked, but as the passage today continues, “Consider Jesus who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (12:3-4). So remember all your brothers and sisters who struggle against sin, be encouraged that you can keep the faith by the Holy Spirit’s power, focus on Jesus who has saved you, forgiven you, is always here for you and will complete you in peace, joy and love; and endure, with all saints, to the end.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now to the end. Amen.