Proper 15C’22
14 August 2022
Hebrews 11.29 – 12.2
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

I believe in the communion of saints; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. – From the Apostle’s Creed

Have you ever watched one of those paranormal shows where a crew equipped with special lights, cameras, and sound recorders go to places that are supposedly haunted? One of the places that has been featured in several of these type shows is the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO. It is where Stephen King was inspired to write his tale of horror called The Shining.” The Stanley had a ghost tour starting at 9:45pm, so we thought we would check it out. In one very small an enclosed room they used a ghost hunter sound monitor to pick up any sub audible voices of the dead. We heard some garbled voices a couple of times. In the billiard room we were encouraged by the tour guide to take lots of pictures, because there have multiple ghost sightings. Well, I started taking photos with my camera. As I started looking at some of my photos, I saw what appeared to be a cloudy manifestation up near the ceiling. I showed it to the tour guide, “Man I think I captured something here!” Upon closer examination, I realized that I had pointed my camera at a mirror for the photo – the cloudy manifestation? Turned out to be fingerprint smudges. I did a great job of embarrassing my family and myself. I think that was my first and last ghost tour.

The Church has believed for centuries in something called “the communion of saints,” the great congregation of all those saints, who have gone before us, and of those of us that are alive and still on the earth. Our reading from the letter to the Hebrews pulls back the veil and describes this mystical communion as a “Great Cloud of witnesses.” The scene is one of a mega-sized Olympic stadium with all the saints in the stands cheering us on:

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of God.”

We have all been invited to join them by fully participating during the time given to us on earth. And by the way, who is “them?” “Them” are all of the faithful throughout all time but some individuals made it into something the church has referred to as “The Hall of Faith.” Chapter 11 of Hebrews gives us a Birdseye view of those who by their faithful lives have been given a permanent place of honor. The key to the door of the hall of faith, should come as no surprise – faith. In the first verse we hear the definition of faith:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Then the writer proceeds to name names: The children of Israel who passed through the Red Sea as it was parted, Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Then there’s the people of God who brought down the walls in the city of Jericho by obeying the prophet to march seven times around the city. Rahab, a prostitute was spared from destruction because she had acted in faith to offer hospitality to Israelite soldiers which could have gotten her killed. Gideon who overcame great odds and with only 300 men scattered an army of 10,000. There’s Barak (I think we’ve heard that name somewhere of other) who with the help of the prophetess Deborah raised an army and defeated the foreign occupiers the Canaanites. Samson, managed to serve God in powerful ways until he got a haircut, but he repented and was enabled to destroy 3000 of the Philistines. Jephthah who was instrumental in defeating the Ammonites. Then David, the King of Israel, Samuel the prophet, and many of the other prophets.

Some of the things they were able to accomplish by putting their faith into action: they were enabled to conquer kingdoms, administer justice where there had been corruption, they obtained promises, to shut the mouths of lions, quench raging fires, escaped death by the sword, found God’s strength in the midst of their human weakness, were enabled to endure great suffering through beatings, persecution and prosecution, imprisonment, torture, some were sawn in two, and some were stoned to death. By faith God made a way for them where there was no way, and did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves.

Jesus, of course being the ultimate example of a life lived by faith. A life dependent upon his Father.

I’d like to tell you about a dream I had a number of years ago. The type of dream that I had has been called by Psychologist Carl Jung and others a “Visitation Dream.” This is where you experience a visit from a loved one as you are dreaming. The person my deceased paternal grandfather. Rather than being the ago he was at his death, in the dream he looked to be about 30. I remember we were outside sitting down on some steps and he was telling me some of the regrets and some of the great difficulties of his life. His motive seemed to be to help me not to experience a similar fate. And here was the message he came to deliver: “Sometimes you have to jump into the Bono River.” Then the dream ended. Now here’s where it gets interesting, there is a town near where I grew up called Bono, but there is no river – it was nothing but flat farm land. What on earth could he mean – it seemed important for me to get the meaning. As I started to think and pray about that I thought “hmmm, you have to jump into something that isn’t there (an act of faith) and if I do that, then a river would appear. I won’t go into all the circumstances of my life at the time but I was on the cusp of making decisions that would affect the whole direction of my life forever. Perhaps my grandfather had been at a similar crossroad and chickened out. Perhaps he held on to something that he should have let go of, turned left instead of turning right on his journey.

One of the Indiana Jones films “The Last Crusade” has one of the best illustrations of faith. In pursuit of the Holy Grail Indiana Jones is following a hand drawn map that depicts a chasm with cliffs on either side. It then shows the holy grail out over the chasm and a knight floating in midair. Indiana would have to step off a cliff to get the grail. A group of Nazis are about to catch up to him. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and with one foot steps off the cliff. The moment his foot came down it landed on a solid stone bridge that suddenly appeared. Perhaps that was what my grandpa was saying you have to take a leap of faith by jumping into something that isn’t there for it to turn into something that is there. Trust that God knows what you don’t, trust that faith is not seeing and believing but believing and then seeing. The saints both small and great who have finished their race has passed the baton to us, they are praying, and cheering us on!


“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…” Amen.