For over a thousand years the church has celebrated November 1st as All Saints Day. A day to recall and reflect upon those Hebrews 12 calls ‘the great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us in our faith. At our staff meeting this week we took some time to share with each other about the people who have gone before us shaping our own personal spiritual journeys, and in some cases completely re-routing the course of one’s life. What struck me most about these stories wasn’t really the depth of impact that others have had on us, but how varied the encounters were. Some of us shared stories of people who invested copious amounts of time and energy into us; while another person was deeply impacted simply by the life-story of a woman whom she had never even met, another significantly touched by passing words, and yet another by a seemingly chance encounter on a park bench. Its a simple yet highly encouraging message that we can have such great impact on another person’s life; that we can affect someone else so profoundly through a passing word, gesture, or even in our own absence, though, is sobering.
1 Thessalonians 4 declares that someday, when the end is nigh, both the living and the dead will be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord–a great and encouraging image of how our connectedness in Christ will one day become a tangible reality for us to enjoy. One day the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us will be manifest before us. And yet we are exhorted out of the depth of that connectedness in Christ, because of its impact here and now, to encourage one another and build each other up, to live in peace with each other, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone (1 thess. 5). The crazy thing is that we never know which word, which action, which gesture is going to make a difference in someone else’s life; and so our charge is not to be over-zealous, making each instant an ultimate one, but to be faithful–allowing God to do his thang. And in this way we too join the great cloud of witnesses.