Proper 15, Hebrews 12:1-3
In 1999, Antony Gormley’s sculpture was completed. Quantum Cloud had been commissioned as a piece that would complement the newly constructed Millennium Dome in London, England. This sculpture is 30 meters tall, contains 5.5km of galvanized steel, and weighs nearly 50 metric tons. What is most impressive about this piece is not the size or the weight but rather the science and engineering it took to complete it. Gormley worked with various and randomly oriented steel sections, implementing geometry and trigonometry, to shape this massive work of art. Overall, Gormley used 325 tetrahedral units to finish the piece, giving birth to many websites and articles describing in detail all the math and science that went into this complex sculpture.
Yet, in the midst of all of the math and in spite of the complex enormity of this piece, what naturally draws viewers is the faint image of a person in the midst of the chaos of metal.
What kind of things are complicating your vision in your life? Through the distractions and distress, the complexity of life, it is very easy to lose sight of our creator and redeemer. Every word of anger or lustful thought can cloud our vision of who our saving grace is that shapes us and makes us perfect.
At times, it is as if we look at our life and see metal sticking out in random patterns. Our lives, like this sculpture, can remind us of the dangers and temptations of our world. We see a planned effort by the Devil and the world to tear us down physically, mentally, and most importantly spiritually. Yet, if you look closely at this sculpture, what stands in the middle of all the tetrahedral units and galvanized steel of this piece is a body, a man to be more specific. In designing this sculpture Gormley used his own likeness to create the human form in the middle of this cloud. So, as people walk by this Quantum Cloud, the creator of the piece reveals his image through the complex construction of the metal.
Scripture seems to show us over and over again that God uses strange and oftentimes messed up people to carry out His will. These people, although not perfectly molded or formed, were used by God to accomplish great things and give glory back to their creator. The book of Hebrews actually gives us a list of these people in chapter 11, known commonly as “the heroes of faith” chapter. We are shown Moses, an ordinary man chosen by God, leading God’s people out of slavery in Egypt by faith to the Promised Land. After the author gives us this impressive list of ordinary people we are shown something greater. We find out in Hebrews 12:1-3 that we are reminded of these faith role models because they actually testify to someone greater than themselves. These spiritual hall of famers, that could easily draw a fan club of their own, are actually just a cloud that point us to their creator, our God. This cloud of witnesses help paint a picture of who God is and how he works. God acts in and through their lives and through them we are given a glimpse of Him. This cloud of witnesses is actually meant to be an encouragement to Christians as they try to live out their faith in their daily life. By showing us who God is we are encouraged to run with endurance the race that is set before us.
This cloud of witnesses is meant to be an encouragement to us as we run the race with perseverance. They encourage us by giving us a picture of God, if only through their lives and struggles. Not only do we draw encouragement from this but we also begin to recognize our place in the cloud. We are encouraged, as we look back at our lives, to trust that Christ is present in all circumstances. Even at times to see the faint trace of his person and work. By grace, we are part of the cloud of witnesses that help people see Christ. We testify to who God is just as the heroes of faith have done throughout history. So when life in all of its stresses, frustrations, and fears starts to cloud your vision, focus your eyes again on the great cloud of witness. Focus on them not because of what they have done or how great they are but rather because their lives point to your God. They testify to Jesus Christ who is the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. He has authored all of our days, as clouded and complex as they may seem. He is in the midst of our lives giving us strength and hope for each day. Christ is the perfector of our faith as He shapes and molds us through our lives and the cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. Through all these things we are made more like Him, which will be fully realized on the Last Day when Christ comes to make all things new.