Weekly Sermon
Delivered By
Dr. E. G. Sherman, Jr
Delivered On
November 5, 2017 at 10:45 AM
A Cloud of Witnesses

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…” Heb 12:1
People gather for various purposes and at different
places.  Some gatherings are annually, others are for special
occasions, and there are the weekly assembling for worship.
Our gathering today is of this latter type, worship, but it also
encompasses, the first type which is a special occasion.
Hence, this mortgage burning worship service is both a
special occasion being observed in a regular worship
While worship services are somewhat routine, the
reality of a mortgage burning worship is an exceptional
one because of its rarity in the life time of many members.
In this connection, the Institutional family is blessed to have
present today many members whose affiliation predates the

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mortgage initiation that has since been paid in full. For this
blessing, we are thankful. Accordingly, we can concur with
the hymnal words, “And are we yet alive to see each other’s
face…? Our sermon, in mirroring this sentiment, has been
entitled, A Great Cloud of Witnesses. It is undergirded by
the following three considerations, namely: to highlight the
biblical evolution of worship places, to identify the levels
on which the church can be viewed, and to describe the
three types of witnessed within the great cloud.
According to archeologists, primitive man possessed
an awareness of deistic worship in the openness of nature.
This conclusion was derived from the uncovering of burial
cites and, therein, were found that the decedent had been
buried with its face toward the East, a practice that
symbolized facing the rising sun at the future coming of

their spiritual being. With respect to this sermon, however,
attention will be confined to Biblical history of the worship
pathway. The first stage was that of open worship within the
arena of nature. Persons who symbolized that approach
included: Abraham who journey to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice
his son; Jacob who wrestled with an angel until the break
of day; and Moses who experienced the burning bush on the
back side of Mt. Horeb.
The next level of worship was that of the tent used
during the wilderness journey; it was later replaced with
the building of a tabernacle that God instructed Moses to
have Aaron design and assume responsibility for its
construction. Later, in Old Testament history, there would
be the construction of a Temple, envisioned by David but
completed by Solomon, his son. Sadly, that  temple would

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be destroyed by the Babylonian invaders.
Against this brief history of Old Testament history,
attention will now be focused on the New Testament
Period. Two features are herein cited, first the existence
of the synagogue or temple worship. Therein Jesus would
be carried as a baby of eight days old. Later in his life,
Jesus would read in the temple and therein announce his
mission to preach ( Luke 4: 18 ) In commencing to fulfill his
mission, Jesus encountered criticisms, distortions, and even
rejection by his own Jewish group ( Jo. 1:11   ). Yet, Jesus
continued his earthly work and decided to formalize it by
announcing that he would build his church ( Matt. 16:18).
That declaration was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost
( Acts 2  ) and afterward the early church movement
commenced to become a living reality as noted in the Book

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of Acts. This glorious fact leads to the second aspect of the
sermon which is components or levels of worship. Biblical
scholars indicate that worship can viewed on three levels.
First,  there is the Ideological level; it entails what the
worshiping people believe, their doctrines, creeds, and view
on the life after death. Secondly, worship includes an action
or behavioral level. This includes, but is not limited to,
attendance as noted in Heb. 10:25 “ Not forsaking the
assembling of ourselves together…” for worship;  regular
financial support for the church as noted in ( 1st Cor. 16:2 )
lay by him in store, as God has prospered him…”
; and praying for the continuance and growth of the church
as noted by Paul who wrote “…making mention of you in our
prayers”  (1st Thess. 1:2). Thirdly, worship embodies a place
set aside for glorify and exhault the mighty name of Jesus.

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As a side note, it seems that the contemporary worship is
being placed more on the physical facility than on the
doctrinal soundness of the worship service.
This pastoral editorial leads to the third, and final,
dimension of the sermon which is – witnesses to the
Institutional sojourn. Beloved, it is herein submitted that
there are three classes of witnesses to this journey. Prior
to identifying and discussion them, it is deemed
appropriate to comment on the word witness. It is used
to designate an individual who has some specific
information on or knowledge about a person or event.
In legal terminology, there are three types of witnesses;
those summoned by the court, those who volunteer to
appear in court, and those labeled as hostile witnesses.
Fortunately, not one of those types fits into the witnesses

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associated with the Institutional First Baptist Church.
First are those witnesses who once were associated with
Institutional. Owing to occupational and/or career changes
outside the city of Albany, they had to relocate. Those
persons were cooperative, helpful, and dependable as
members. In contrast, there were others who chose to move
membership, often to another church in Albany. Without
attempting to submit reasons, it is herein noted that their
services were highly appreciated and the institutional
prayer is that they will find tranquility within their chosen
The second category of witnesses is that of the
current membership. These individuals have remained
firmly committed to the Institutional mission. They have
maintained a consistent attendance record, a regular

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financial pattern, a commitment to render voluntary
services, and the avoidance of insurrection attempts.
The third and final segment of witnesses consists of
those who are no longer with us because they have joined
that innumerable caravan which moves into that mysterious
realm where each shall take his place in the silent halls of
death. Yes, they are gone, but their legacy looms over
Institutional. Their attendance, goodwill, finances, and
prayers – all contributed immensely to this mortgage
burning worship here at Institutional First Baptist Church.
May God bless the deceased, the relocated, and the
current membership and let us always remember,
“Nehemiah built the walls because the people had a mind
to work”. May God continue to bless and keep us under the
canopy of his care. Amen.

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