The Great Cloud
This past weekend I returned home to South Carolina to be ordained into vocational ministry. I cannot really convey what the entire experience meant and I am not really going to try. The words would fall well short. Though I do want to say that I am incredibly grateful to those who were able to come out and support me.
I have been thinking a lot about my spiritual journey recently. The truth of the matter is that whatever has been done to get me to the nebulous "here" of being ordained is not solely my doing. Not even close. This goes beyond the true answer that God is the source and sustainer of our spiritual being. Today is All Saints' Day. This is a day when we remember the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith. Women and men whose examples spur us on to follow after God.
Who I am in faith is the product of thousands if not tens of thousands of people who are living and dead, known and unknown to me, spread across time and some of whom will outlive me in the future. I did not get here on my own. I was carried by many and will continue to be carried as I am continually formed spiritually until my dying breath. And perhaps beyond that, but that's far more trippy a concept than I'll get into right now.
I am the product of my family. My Mom and Dad have shaped my faith enormously. They were the first ones there and they have demonstrated a love for God throughout their lives. I have been formed by my younger siblings Taylor and Shari (and now their spouses), two of my favorite people in the world who have encouraged me and challenged me. In the last decade plus, EA has been possibly the biggest influence on my spiritual life. Jim and Liam have formed me even as I try to teach them about Jesus, God, life, and faith. This doesn't even touch on how grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and others have shaped me.
I am the product of teachers, professors, pastors, and friends. From those who educated me and coached me through school to those who challenged me and guided me through college and seminary. Seesalt staffers, adults, and students. My youth minister Seth. My discipleship leader Danny and the guys in my discipleship group. Friends at Furman and Garnder-Webb. Friends and pastors at Fernwood.
I am the product of the Church. The great cloud of witnesses. All too human disciples like Peter and Thomas. Wide-eyed Christ followers like Francis of Assisi. Reformers throughout history who kept chipping away at the things dragging down this community. A crate full of characters that I learned about Justo Gonzalez's church history books. Ordinary people of faith lost to time who influenced someone who influenced someone else who influenced someone else all the way down to me.
The list could go on and on. This morning I sat down and wrote down everyone that I could think of in my great cloud, people whose intersection with God created something holy that has meant something in my journey. It included the people above and everything from C.S. Lewis to Charles Schulz to many more than I could name. It's a worthwhile exercise that I would commend to you.
I have been the recipient of these beautiful gifts from so many and I am grateful. I pray that I can honor their lives and stories. That I will lay aside all that can trip me up and run with perseverance the race set before me, fixing my eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of this precious and life-giving faith.