Sunday, July 24, 2011

'I'll be in the cloud, looking down on you
and watching to see...'

think our tendency is to be superficial with the word of God. And to read it. And make one or two comments, and then pass on.

You can always tell an immature or ill-prepared preacher by his invoking too many texts for one message. As if to say, ‘I don’t have any real insight, but I’m giving you the scripture.’ And then, he’ll go on to another scripture, and another and another. So, in the end, the people don’t receive anything of value. He would be better off – and you would be better off! – to choose fewer texts, maybe even one! And really burrow into that, and extract and bring out its meaning and its life-giving quality than jump from text to text to text just to fill the hour.
So, just superficially, just to give you an idea – and I haven’t prepared myself – it begins with a reference to ‘so great a cloud of witnesses.’
Who in the world, in the church today, so much as has a consciousness that we are encircled by a cloud of invisible witnesses? Who?!
For most christians, and even most pastors, such a reference would be dismissed as fable or myth or just poetic use of language and is not intended to convey any literal and actual meaning! Well, the church is finished before it begins – if that’s the attitude of its ministers!
Would you believe that as humble as this building is and as ordinary as we ourselves are, that this morning we have above us a cloud of invisible witnesses? That, in God’s sight, this occasion is that important that the Captain of the host orders his spiritual troops, so to speak, and marshals them for the magnitude of the event that is at hand. And, he would not consider it extravagant to gather up select saints who have gone before us. They’ve passed on, they’ve died in faith, they’ve died in service, they’ve died violently or of old age – it doesn’t matter. He knows them. They’re with him. And they have an investment; they have a vested interest in what is taking place here. They probably have a history in Africa, probably a history in Uganda, maybe even the bishop that we saw when we visited the Archbishop of Kampala yesterday on the way here. He showed us the portraits of the bishops that have preceded him. And, he said ‘this one died violently at the hands of Idi Amin.’ He might be in the cloud this morning.
Because we’re told they are not complete without us. ‘God, having provided some better thing for us that they without us should not be made perfect.’
Listen, dear saints, we are in an unbroken continuum with every saint of the past with the great work of God from its inception in time and history to this present moment! There is an unbroken continuum of what has gone before us and what is yet future about which we need to be conscious. Or else, we are sticks in the mud, fixed in our little location and in our little moment of time, and we lose the entire breadth of the magnitude and the glory of that to which we have been called and have part…
We cannot lack this compass of times and eternity future, of which we are a present factor adding to those who have gone before who are not out of the picture. They’re looking on! Why? Because they’re not complete without us. That for which they strived for and died was not accomplished. But it was a contribution, and they’re waiting for the completion and consummation that will justify their sacrifice and their labors and prayer by what happens to us. And the day is not distant when we’ll be in the cloud if the Lord does not yet come.
I’ll be in the cloud, looking down on you and watching to see if you have hearkened to what was spoken when I was with you and that you’re going on in it.
It’s remarkable how little we are told about this! But, the little that we are told should be registered upon our consciousness – deeply!

-Zimbabwe, 2005

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