The Cloud Of Witness In Our Midst

Please enjoy my reflection for this morning.  I spent the week in Washington D.C. with the youth group on a mission trip.  My words are brief – I wanted everyone to hear from the kids, not from me.

I will post some pictures soon – we had an AMAZING trip!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
August 17, 2013

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

The Cloud Of Witnesses In Our Midst {Mission Trip Reflection}

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said these words in 1963. A piece of this quote is carved into a large stone at the MLK Memorial in Washington DC, a city that 15 of our bright, talented and compassionate youth travelled to this past week for a mission trip. These youth embodied the words of Dr. King; they stepped outside of their comfort zones and rose to the occasion of outreach and service.

The stories from the week and the lessons that were learned are not mine to share. I have invited several members of the youth group to speak this morning, so what I have to say is going to be brief.

When I first read the scripture for this morning, I knew that it would eloquently prepare us to hear about this year’s mission trip:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

So often when we hear the phrase, “cloud of witnesses,” we think of the people who have come and gone before us. But we forget that Jesus called all people – those who are living on earth and those who have been resurrected to a new life – into his ministry.

The 15 members of the Rehoboth Congregational Church Youth Group that traveled to our nation’s capital this week, that worked diligently at outreach sites around the city, that shared a meal with the homeless community, that respectfully explored the city and that thoughtfully and openly reflected in our discussions, are indeed so great a cloud of witnesses. All of us – regardless of who we are, how old we are and how long we have been members of this church community – have something to learn from this cloud of witnesses.

The youth and adults that took part in our summer mission trip this week were reminded of why we, as Christians, engage in service. By leaving the comforts and the familiarity of their Rehoboth-area homes, they saw – first-hand – visible poverty, homelessness and inequality. They realized just how blessed they really are and felt called to action, to serve within the Body of Christ. But they also realized that – like those who came before them, those who the author of the Letter to Hebrews reminded us of – they needed their faith to give them the strength to journey forward.

As I was doing my own reflections on this week, I was reminded of a scripture that I often read at funerals. Hear these words from the Gospel of Matthew:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The act of service is an act of faith. And when we serve others, we are serving Christ.

And that is what we did this week.

Those on the trip were also reminded why we come together as a community to engage in service; why we are a cloud of witnesses, rather than one single star witness.

  • Our trip would not have had the depth and diversity that it had without the help of the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP), a non-profit organization that creates service opportunities and exposure to young people.
  • Our trip could not have been logistically feasible without the financial donations from people within this church and community.
  • The people on our trip may not have not have had the strength and determination needed to continue to serve without the people that surrounded them every day and the people that showed their support from afar.

Abbie, Mike, Carolyn, Jodi, Deb, Jeffrey, Matt, Hannah, Morgan, Loren, Elizabeth, Julia, Jonathan, Emmie, Harry, Keighley, Caleb, Billy, Tommy and Jacob – you are a great cloud of witnesses. And members and friends of the Rehoboth Congregational Church, we are blessed to be surrounded by them.

So let us now hear their stories.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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