In a great billowing cloud

Hebrews 11 is all about the greats of the Bible, acknowledging the inheritance they passed on to us, and then Chapter 12 starts with this (I’m reading the Passion Translation just now)

As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds.

I love the thought that all the greats of faith, everyone who went before us, are encircling us like clouds. We’re in the middle of a great crowd, millions and millions of believers who went before us, passing the scriptures down to us, and creating traditions we still follow today, sharing and teaching their experience of God and their understanding. And I love that the writer has so intimately included you and me in the ‘us’ he writes about. We are in the midst of that great cloud. Everyone we know, a part of that great surge of humanity, those with us now and those we have loved who are already in glory. We are all united in the love of God. Doesn’t that blow your tiny mind?

It’s very stormy in the UK and this morning I trudged through the dunes, unable to brave the beach and as we went down one dune into a little valley, bordered by banks of bramble and Old Man’s Beard, and the dogs ran ahead, excited and silly, with the wind up their bums, there was a sudden roaring overhead, all around us, shaking. It was above us, around us and even in us. More than a deafening noise, a sensation, a thrumming, an overwhelming. A roar with no direction. In that little hollow there was madness. The dogs stopped, confused, looking back, tails down, as the grass whipped and the trees howled. No time to be afraid, wonder pushes fear aside. It seemed to shudder the world, to reach into the bone and the heart and the mind, and then… it was gone.

It was just the wind. Just the wind. Wonderful, powerful, like standing in the middle of a vortex. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

This morning, peeping at the beach

We walked on, and reached the end of the path, and there before us was the sky and the sea, the sand whipping past, and I was the only one in the whole wide world. Well, me and God.

At the moment life here is pretty unrelenting; rain and wind is the easy bit, and after that comes bereaved friends, a pal who’s just tested positive for Covid, another who’s bedridden, one who’s been horribly ill for two weeks with no diagnosis, another friend has lost her workshop and livelihood in a house fire, I’ve had a very bad reaction to a booster, Macron is playing the wounded Frenchman and Johnson is bumbling around helplessly as people drown in the English Channel, there’s a new and more virulent Covid strain… grim, grim, grim. Enough already!

But listen, listen to the power in the wind, look up at the fabulous moon tonight, be aware of our smallness and the miracle of life and love all around us. Remember all those millions of Christ followers empowered by his love, know that you’re a part of that great billowing cloud, a part of that great energy, a part of that eternity! Think of the unending compassion and kindness of God, and know that even on a night like this, whatever is going on in your life, however the world is split by injustice, he is in control. ‘In him all things hold together.’

And lest you think I’m a right old Pollyanna, now I have to tackle the next bit of that verse in Hebrews;

As for us, we have all of these great witnesses who encircle us like clouds. So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into.

Let go of every wound that has pierced us? What, even when it really really hurts and someone’s been really really unkind? And even when I’m already struggling with that? Even when it’s a wet dark night in wettest darkest Wales and we just want to fume and simmer and complain about something that’s so obviously not our fault (sort of, erm…) and we feel really ill and , well, you know… do I have to let go of my hurt even in those special circumstances? Can I plead a special case? Apparently not.

Bother. Don’t you just hate it when a verse lifts you up, and then convicts you?

But listen, the very next line is ‘Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.’

All those little winding paths in the dunes, a witness that someone has walked that way already, that it’s a safe way to go, that when the storm lashes and the wind roars, on that path there is shelter and safety. The path is marked out before us, by that great billowing cloud of witnesses to the goodness and truth of God. The path is not always easy, but it’s always true. So, if tonight you’re sad and maybe lonely, or maybe hurt, or even angry, think about that great cloud of brothers and sisters, people who have gone this way before you, marking out the path for us, think about the writer of Hebrews, and I will too.

I’ll think about that last line, about letting go of hurt. Dammit. Nursing a grievance is so rewarding, isn’t it? It just feels good. Like a drug, like a lie, like a sin.

OK. That’s it. I’m off. Night night. Wherever you are, who ever you are, God bless.

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