BY REV. TIM NAPPE - HARBOR OF JOY LUTHERAN CHUCH IN MILFORD
Thank God for Marvin. He is a man who served as a Christian example to me years ago while I was growing up. He was active in the church where I was baptized and confirmed. He served as an usher and a Sunday School teacher. I was fortunate enough to be in one of his Sunday School classes. He was also a Boy Scout troop leader for me while I was growing up. I was privileged to witness his faith in action as he taught, as he ushered, as we sat around the camp fire and as we hiked through the woods.
I also crossed paths with Marvin as he served as a Gideon, passing out Bibles at my junior high school. I heard him speak about his faith, not only on Sundays, but also on other occasions when he really didn’t have to.
As an adolescent, he hired me to mow his lawn, encouraged me and even paid me when I didn't do that good a job. He went out of his way to speak to me as I went through the awkward teen years and even told me that he was praying for me. He said it with such sincerity that I believed him.
Marvin was one of many who have served as a role model for me over the years. Men and women who, by the power of their faith and the strength of their character, have touched my life. They are people who were simply living out their convictions. Some were willing to put their faith into words and talk to me about God. Others were not very vocal, but spoke volumes by putting their faith into action.
I am indebted to former pastors, teachers, friends, Bible camp counselors and countless acquaintances who, over the years, have testified to me about their faith in both words and actions. I am thankful to God for sending them into my life to be mentors, role models and examples of faith — sometimes intentionally but, most of the time, unintentionally.
Nov. 1 is coming up, and many churches across the country and around the world, regardless of denomination, will celebrate All Saints Sunday on Nov. 4.
It is a minor festival in the Christian Church that has been celebrated for centuries. It is a day for us to pause and remember all those faithful people who came before us; men and women of faith and conviction who steadfastly lived out their faith in the face of adversity, enduring economic depressions, World Wars, drought, disease, grief, unemployment and many of the other struggles that earthly life has to offer. But they endured by the power of their faith in God and their trust that He would see them through the worst that this world might throw at them.
All Saints Sunday is a day for us to thank God for the witness and example of all these who have gone before us. But it is also a day for us to look ahead into the future.
We have all these powerful examples of faith and perseverance, in our personal lives and all the way back into Biblical stories of both Old and New Testament. These men and women have answered the call, responded with faith, served their God and fulfilled their commission.
And now it is our turn. Now the mission is passed to each of us. We have been blessed by their example and benefited from their ministry. And now, we are called to rise to the challenge and fulfill our call.
We have our own adversity to face — economic struggles, uncooperative weather, wars and unrest as well as a culture that is becoming less and less tolerant of people of faith. But in spite of these problems, or even because of these problems, it is even more important for us to live out our faith in both words and action. We cannot keep silent or be paralyzed by fear. We are called to be faithful, even in the midst of the struggles. We have a responsibility to God, to ourselves, to the world around us and even to the generations that will follow us.
That is what the writer of the book of Hebrews is talking about in Hebrews 12:1-2: "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, 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 its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."