Up and down. In and out.  Old and young.  Sinner and saint. Light and dark.  Life and death.

Opposites that are part of our lives from the minute we are born.  Most of them we understand and deal with everyday.

Except death.  That is the one thing we cannot understand because we have never been able to talk with anyone who has passed through that veil.

Yet we know that we will each pass through.  It is a given.  In order to have resurrection, there must first be death.

The bodies we possess now were never intended to last us into eternity.

And yet during our earthly lives we can make many kinds of impacts on people, places and the world.  Each of the disciples died and was buried in some form, and yet their work and witness continues to influence and inspire us today. Their earthly lives made a difference that echoes to this morning.

And its not just them.  The early church fathers, Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, John of Chrysostom, Justin Martyr, Iranaeus of Lyon.  Other early church figures, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Thomas Aquinas, and moving on to figures like Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Wesleys, all of these who have gone before us. And others who are even more recent.  Figures of faith who have influenced so many, share the Gospel.

They are a part of the huge cloud of witnesses that surround us as people of faith.

Remember, it is not the flesh that lives on but the spirit, as Jesus tells us.  The spirits of these are still with us, calling us, teaching us guiding us.

How many of you here have someone in your life that had a big impact on your faith?   Someone who brought you to church, Sunday School, who taught you about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the life of the church?

My mother taught me the music of the church, from the old Black Swedish Augustana Hymnal and the old red Service Book and Hymnal.  We would sing at the piano for hours.

My great aunt taught Sunday School at the church we attended for many years.  I couldn’t wait to be old enough to be in her class. She shared her faith not just with me but with many other children over the years.  My memories of her and my mom are so vivid because of what they shared with me.

I had a number of people who shared their faith and who shaped my path. The Christian Education director at the church I took my sons to.  My college chaplain.  They were instrumental in moving me toward ministry.

So think, now very carefully.  Who were those people for you?  Anyone care to share?  Each of us here this morning is here because someone thought it was important for you to know the story of Jesus and what was done for us on the cross.

Stop for a moment. Close your eyes and visualize the person in your life who shared their faith in a way that called to you and impacted you.

Now give thanks for that life, that witness who brought you into the cloud.

There is another thing to think about when we think about those who have influenced us.  That is, who we influence. Each one of us here is called to be a witness as well as a disciple.  That means we are called to share our faith and help teach it to others.

Who will think of you one day when they stop to think about their faith.  Who will give thanks for your witness in their lives?  If you are a parent, perhaps your children.  A grandparent or other relative, hopefully the young ones in your life.  But outside your own family who would give thanks for your presence and your witness?

This isn’t just showing up for one event.  This is being someone who is  intentional about sharing their faith with because they feel its important to do as a follower of Jesus.

Who?  A colleague at work?  Someone you know at school?  Someone in a group of some kind that you belong to?

Who will one day think of you with gratitude for sharing?

Take another minute now and if you have someone in mind, envision them.  Ask God to bless your efforts to share and fill you with the wisdom needed to pass on the Gospel.

If you can’t think of anyone in particular, close your eyes and ask God to send you someone that needs to hear the Good News in word or in deed, someone that you can reach to and touch.

Today we celebrate that great cloud of witnesses who saw, believed and told the story to others who heard and believed and passed it on because the Holy Spirit compelled them to.

Whoever we part of your cloud and whoever’s cloud you are in, give thanks that God has used us all as part of a cloud of faithful witnesses that go back over 2000 years.  We are still telling the story.  We will continue telling the story.

To God Be The Glory.