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Weekly Devotional

Cloud of Witnesses

Reflection by Liz Garrigan-Byerly

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.

 

One of my favorite spaces in our church is actually outside the church. It is the cemetery. But I don’t just love the old tombstones and the stories they keep telling, or the simple but powerful beauty of the memorial path. It is how the cemetery is part of our church life now. I love how the green space beyond the portico blends right into the cemetery; there is no boundary between church and cemetery, between the present and the past. I love that this place of “final rest” is also a place of rest for those heading to or from the train and weary shoppers who always slow down as they walk among the tombstones or sit on one of the benches. I love that our children play in the cemetery, as much at home there as they are in in the Tent Room downstairs.

Last year, when this photo of our children running through the cemetery looking for Easter eggs appeared online, one person asked critically, “Aren’t they teaching their children respect for the dead?”

On All Saint’s Day in November, many of those same children came outside, laid their hands on a tombstone and helped us bless the cemetery. Some of them stayed and read the tombstones, marveling at the ages of the deceased and finding someone who shared a name with them. There was respect, and more.

On Easter, we proclaim that death never has the last word; with the resurrection of Jesus, God declares that love and life always overcome death. It’s not an easy thing to understand—for adults, let alone children. What better way for them to learn that truth than for the cemetery, a place of death, to become a place of life, a place of joy?

The great cloud of witnesses for whom our cemetery is a final resting place continue to be part of the Body of Christ because our church spills out into the cemetery. They continue to witness to their faith by being part of ours. Because of them, our children can run this race—a race against the ways our culture deals with death, a race toward God’s Kingdom of love and justice—with perseverance.

Prayer: Thank you God, for all those who have gone before us and for the ways they continue to shape our faith. Thank you for our cemetery and for the children that run the race of faith there now. May they inspire us to run this race with perseverance. Amen.

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