As I slid into the pew at church this morning, the main thought on my mind was whether or not my young daughter was going to cough so much that she’d interrupt the service and if maybe I should just take her home. I wasn’t thinking too hard about God or mankind or the fact that it was the first Sunday of the month and therefore Communion Sunday. I was just glad we’d all gotten there alive.
This is often my state of mind on a Sunday morning. Thankfulness that none of my children have killed each other over the past week – or that I, as their ill-fit mother, haven’t thrown up my hands and run away.
I listened to the welcome, shook hands with my neighbors, sang the first couple hymns. All without thinking too hard or getting past my own self-centered thoughts. And then a dear older man in our congregation got up to share some special music with us.
And I began to cry.
“Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word; Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.”
There he stood, singing a cappella – knowing all of the words by heart – filling the sanctuary with his lovely voice. I couldn’t stop smiling even through my tears. But even more importantly, as he sang, the genuine depth of his words washed over me and I could feel how much he meant what he was singing.
And suddenly I remembered other dear church people who were a part of my life when I was a child. Other people who sang, played the piano, directed the choir. I remembered the little ladies in the nursery, with their horn-rimmed glasses and their sturdy shoes.
I remembered the Sunday School teachers with their questions that made me think and their phone calls on my birthday.
I remembered elders and pastors, wishing that I could again hear their deep, reassuring voices as they spoke in front of the church. So many of them are with Jesus now, but I know I’ll see them again someday.
There were so many people in my life, for so many years, living out their daily lives to the honor and glory of God, to the best of their abilities. They weren’t perfect. But they carried on, despite their imperfections. I thought of the smiles and “hello’s” that they poured into me. The talents that they shared. The prayers.
And through all of this, as he sang each and every verse of the song, I thought of the “great cloud of witnesses” that Paul speaks of in Hebrews 11 and 12. And it dawned on me that the cloud of witnesses is not limited to the Biblical heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11. It is not limited by generations. The great cloud of witnesses includes us. We, the church past, present and future, are part of that “story most precious”, that cloud of people who witness to the righteousness of God.
And then I began to look around me, at the older people in this congregation today who are doing exactly that for my children. How blessed I am. How blessed I have always been.
Thanks be to God.