Memorial Day is this weekend. You don’t have to know me very well to know I am a family history nut. A few years back, I realized that the little Miller County cemetery where my mom is buried has six generations of her family. The earliest, Mesheck Rowden, was born in Virginia in 1792! I like walking around, reading the names and dates, and recalling the stories I have been told about these ancestors of mine.
I think the writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews may have been feeling something similar – though much greater – when he wrote chapter 11, the famous “Great Heroes of the Faith” chapter. This chapter memorializes such heroes as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and many other Old Testament characters. The writer also pays tribute to all of the unnamed heroes who have been willing to go without homes, suffer persecution and even die rather than forsake God. After recalling these saints’ heroic deeds, the writer issues this command: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (13:1-2).
Thinking about his spiritual ancestors reminded the Hebrews writer that he was connected to something much bigger than himself. He understood he had a heritage, and he was willing to sacrifice to pass that heritage on to those who would come after him.
Maybe you don’t know much about your family history, or maybe you feel like you don’t have a heritage worth preserving. Even if that’s true, you can be connected to something bigger than yourself, something that reaches far beyond our time and includes people worth calling heroes. Even better, this heritage leads to Jesus and the very throne room of God.
Your Turn: How does remembering that we have a “great cloud of witnesses” impact you?