This Cloud of Witness is Truly a Beloved Community

by Rev. Dr. Edward Goode, Christ Church (UCC) in Ft. Thomas, KY

Photo of wood plank path through the woods by Rev. Edward Goode

This photo was from a moment when I was on an early morning walk at the Manassas National Battlefield back in July.  Whenever we visit Amy’s family, I love hiking there especially as the sun is rising.  That morning, I had been hiking for about 30 minutes when I came to this raised walkway over a marshy section just as the sun was starting to illuminate footprints in the morning dew going both directions.  But here’s the thing…I hadn’t seen anyone else out there that morning, especially those who were going the opposite direction on the trail.  And yet there were all these prints reflecting the new day’s sunlight. 

I’m not suggesting it was ghosts of the battlefield or anything like that.  The simplest explanation is that I just didn’t cross paths with anyone else following that trail.  As I continued, I kept reflecting back on what I had seen and I got thinking about the countless others who are today walking the Way of Jesus as well as those who have walked the Way before us.  Some of those are ones we may have met and/or know their names but the vast majority are those whose names we’ll never know.  I especially centered on the cloud of witnesses who, to use the words from our funeral liturgy, who have kept the faith, finished their race, and who now rest from their labor.  I stopped at one point to read the beautiful section from Hebrews 11-12 of the many who had gone before living out lives of faith. 

Each has left their footprints.  Some have left footprints that continue to bear their names while others are not as clearly defined.  Yet they are there.  We may not have seen them leaving their footprints but they are there.  This cloud of witness is truly a beloved community as well – one who has passed on the love and wisdom and hope and power of God into the church and the world to this day. 

So with each footprint you leave today, give thanks for the beloved community who walked that ground before you and for those who will see their footprints and yours sometime in the future. 

Grace, Peace, Love, and, Joy

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