Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day: Heroes of the Faith - Matthew 5:1-12 and Hebrews 11:30-12:2

This week we are placing our series on the Big Rocks on hold for just a week to focus on today, All Saints Day. This is a day on the Christian calendar where we pause to remember, reflect, and thank God for all those that have gone before us. This is the day where we spend time honoring those Christians who are now part of the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” that meant so much to us.

My Heroes
Growing up there were two people that had a great influence on me, Richard Schnaare and Emma Davis. Richard Schnaare was a man that I knew from as long back as I can remember. He was a member of my home church until his death about five years ago. He was a man that had a strong faith in God, but not showy. He taught my young adult Sunday School class and would teach what he knew but not force it on us. He lived the best way he knew how and never made a point about it. His quiet example of what being a Christian man was to him, spoke volumes to me. His example taught me more than any words he could have ever spoke. Richard studied Scripture, really studied and labored over it in order to understand it the best he could. He then strived to live out what he learned. It was important to him to not only profess his faith in the Triune God but to model it and live it out daily. I loved that man, I respected that man, I miss that man.

The next person that holds a big place in my heart is Emma Davis. Emma was my grandmommy, she was my Mom's mom. She lived just a few blocks from my house as I was growing up and I spent a great deal of time at my grandmommy's house. She would take me on errands with her, she would let me just tag along as she cleaned house, did yard work, or whatever it was she was up to that day. She basically allowed me to be her shadow, and her shadow I was. My grandmommy was also very active in my home church. She ran the children's programs and was very dedicated to making sure the children felt they had a home at the church. She loved those kids and they adored her. She was 4 feet 11.5 inches tall, you always had to include that .5 inch, so she was just about the same size as the kids, and she would play just as hard as they did. Her ability to love, accept, and nurture those children really impressed me. She had a way of making you feel important, valued, and just like you were on top of the world. She could sense someone hurting and usually had the right words that made you feel better. She could mediate disagreements to where both sides felt like they were heard. She could smile at you and you instantly knew she was someone you wanted to know and be around. My grandmommy lived with the love of Christ as her shield. She had such a deep abiding love of Christ and she strived to share it with everyone she could. Her faith in the risen Savior and the love that he expressed through his death and sacrifice really spoke to her and informed her Christian faith. I loved my grandmommy, I respected my grandmommy, I deeply miss my grandmommy.

What Makes Someone a Hero?
These two people were and are very important heroes in my faith. Their example and their witness guide me, strengthen me, and encourage me. But what makes someone a hero? Our first Scripture lesson tells us. Christ is walking up the mountain side with his disciples and begins what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. He starts with the beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10 NIV). Jesus outlines it for us right here. Those of us that have the traits that this world mocks, those of us that have the traits where we put others first, those of us that have the traits that allow us to thin the veil between Heaven and Earth, those are the heroes. Richard and my grandmommy had those traits. And I am confident that all of you know someone who possessed those traits as well.

The Importance of Heroes
And knowing heroes of the faith is important because they are part of the cloud of witnesses that we read about in our Second Scripture lesson this morning.

We were never promised an easy life as Christians. When made the decision to devote our lives to the Kingdom we were never promised that we would never face difficulties. But these verses from Hebrews give us the encouragement to persevere.

You see Hebrews Chapter 11, the entire chapter is about great examples of faith from the lives of those we read about in Scripture, from Cain and Able, from Noah, from Abraham and his wife Sarah, from Jacob, from Joseph, and from Moses, among others. For some, marvelous things happened to them. For others, horrible things happened to them. But what happened to them was not the focus. The focus comes in verse 40 where we are told that God has planned something better for us, the whole people of God.

This is where the cloud of witnesses come into play. This life is hard, long, and arduous and to have to do it alone would terrify me. But we have our cloud of witnesses. Maybe it would help to think of this passage in terms of a relay race. There are people that have to start with the baton at the beginning of the race, those are the people that lived before us. They are the ones that set the tone for us, teach us, influence us and when their portion is done they hand off the baton to the next person, to us. But they are not done. As we watched them carry that baton, we were studying them, whether we were cognizant of it or not. We were examining them to see how they carried themselves and treated others. And after we receive the baton, the next runner is doing the same thing to us. Those that came before us, even though they are not physically here anymore, their examples, their actions, and their teachings, are still guiding us today.

Are You a Hero?
So I ask you today, as we honor those that came before us, are you a hero to someone? Are you striving to live the life that Christ preached about on the mountainside? Are you striving to live the life that Christ sacrificed himself for? Those are the questions that we need to constantly ask ourselves. To be a disciple of Christ means that we will do things not generally respected by this world and both of our Scripture lessons talk about the rewards we will receive from God for following Him rather than this world.

Those people that have come before us have provided us with a legacy worth remembering, worth passing on. So as we remember them today, let us make it a point to remember them everyday and take what they have taught us and pass it on to the next person in the race so that God may continue to be glorified and the Kingdom may continue to be strengthened.

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