Dear Friends

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…”

Last Sunday’s Bible reading followed me this week, all the way to New Zealand, to Christchurch, where the inner-city pastor’s conference was held, for there in the foyer of the rebuilt Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, above the niche where the baptismal sits, is that verse in English and in Maori (“Na, i tenei kapua nui o nga kaiwhakaatu e karapoti nei i a tatou, whakarerea e tatou nga whakataimaha katoa, me te hara whakaeke tata…”) scored into pieces of timber along with the names of members of the church, past and present.

It is a beautiful piece of symbolism and sculpture and it resonates with the Maori concept of ‘Whakapapa’ a record of the ancestors. Maori people entering the building love it!

There are lots of other beautiful – and quirky – features in the new Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, (While the baptismal sits in that niche, it is on wheels and can be wheeled into the worship space for baptismal services!) But it is a powerful juxtaposition to have the Whakapapa/the cloud of witnesses, resting above the baptistry, the symbol of the commitment we make, day by day, to follow Jesus, to walk the path of discipleship.

And it says powerfully to me that just as Jesus comes alongside us when we think we can go no further, saying, “Get up, get up, we have to finish this…” so does that great cloud of witnesses! They were invested in persevering because of the joy set before them, too, and they continue to be invested and to say to us, “Get up, get up, we have to finish this.”

Because we are in this struggle together. We with them, and them with us, and all of us with Christ Jesus. And so, we, too, need to encourage each other as we pass another lap marker in this race, another annual church meeting, saying to each other, “Get up, get up, we have to finish this. We’re in this together. God has been and will be faithful to us.” Amen and amen.