|counter- clockwise from top left: my grandparents, Ed&Pearl Compaan, my mother, Edna Mae Koetje, Nathan Horne being baptized on Easter Sunday.|
The reason we made a big deal out of it was because a man in our community stepped forward with a passion to see it happen. He and his family joined us last year and he had been sad that we had moved right past it without much of a blip on our radar. And so he started talking to us about it, sharing his ideas... and he led us through the litany today absolutely beautifully.
He spoke with an artist in our community, who hung black & white photos of famous predecessors in the faith: Corrie TenBoom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Theresa of Avila, John Howard Yoder, Rosa Parks, AB Simpson (to name only a few). As we gathered for worship this morning, we were, quite literally, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
We also brought photos of friends and family, spiritual guides and mentors, who have gone before us into perpetual worship. We laid them on the altar and we spent some time speaking their names aloud and remembering their impact on us and for the kingdom. A gong was run after each name was spoken.
And in those moments, of speaking names and pausing for the gong, we shared one another's loss and felt the vacancy of the world without these saints. Tears ran down our cheeks and we sat in the tension of the already and the not yet. These names, which so tangibly represent the already, remind us of the perpetual tension of the not yet. Their lives have been gifts, their impact not quantifiable, and their absence is difficult.
But then we celebrated the new lives, born into our community in the last year. After each precious new name was spoken, a light and cheery bell broke the heavy silence... and the remembrance of our loss turned to our imagination for these little ones and the parts they will play in the inbreaking kingdom.
His kingdom comes... in our loss, in our imagination for what is to come, in remembering the great cloud of witnesses, and in praying for the daily deliverance from evil in kingdom prayer.
And so, as I move into the darkening days of the fall and the winter, today frames the loss of my birth father, my mother, my grandparents into an urge to live well... to press on... to throw off everything that hinders.
"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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3