All Saints Day, From the Stands

 11.03.2019 Rev. Jennifer Hageman
(please click on the link above to view the sermon on Facebook)

Almost as if I am been there, I experience Pastor Jen’s softball game as she heard her father from the stands yelling, “Keep your eye on the ball,” and after her bat connected soundly with the softball, “That’s my girl!” She reminds us that, like a grueling but satisfying softball game, a marathon well-run, or any other physically and emotionally difficult task that requires great discipline we might complete, our Christian life is similarly demanding and rewarding, a life-long race. This race, however, requires laying aside sin that entangles us and encumbrances that might not necessarily be wrong, but may weigh us down or distract us from our goal. Sin such as pride, lust, greed, anger, and envy are things we should rid ourselves of, lightening our load. Some of those encumbrances that might slow us down might be guilt, hopelessness, loneliness, demands or worries of life, or even our culture. Our pastor encourages us to stay in community with other believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who join us in the race, as an ember separated from the rest will cool. We cheer each other on, encouraging us to focus on God’s plan for our lives. “He sets our course as He set the course for Christ. We may not like the course, but we push on as we have the right motivation,” says Pastor Jen. Christ is the perfecter of our faith as He completed the course without fault. We can keep our eyes on Jesus and get rid of the rest. As we recognized All Saints Day, which was particularly significant for our family this year, as it was for many other families in our congregation, we are reminded that in this race, this Christian life, we are not competitors, as those loved ones who have gone on before us and have finished the race are a “great cloud of witnesses,” cheering us on from the stands. Pastor Jen also speaks of the difference between faith and belief, defining faith as “belief put into action.” The book of Hebrews, a sort of “faith hall of fame,” reminds us that just as those stories of Biblical heroes of faith provide us guidance, so have the lives of those faithful loved ones who are no longer in our presence inspired our faith, taught us about God, and prayed us through the tough times. She closes with, “Let our lives encourage. Let us cheer each other on.”