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Thursday, August 11, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Hebrews 11:29—12:2
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and holes in the ground.
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
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 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. (NRSV)
By the time we reached the eleventh month with her on hospice, none of us—my grandmother included—knew what was keeping her going. Bedridden, physically depleted, and at peace with the course of her life and blessed assurance in the promise of heaven, Gladys lingered on. On what could she be waiting?
Having moved back home temporarily, I kept vigil with the rest of my family, as we all, simultaneously, awaited news of the called congregational meeting of the church in Arkansas, where I’d hoped to serve next as associate pastor. (Hard to believe that was nearly twenty years ago!) When news of the affirmative vote came via email later that Sunday morning, I read aloud the results with glee, she within earshot. It was about the next day that she passed away. Though she would not live to see me serve, she carried with her to her final breath her conviction that God would lead me, safe and sound, to a new church home.
Faith-keeping is not a solitary endeavor—at least not entirely. To continue to hold space for what the author of the epistle to the Hebrews defines earlier in this passage as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” involves the persistent spirt of the community of faith across space, time, and cultures. Faith is carried by families, by prayer circles, by worshiping communities, sometimes even by strangers standing on subway platforms.
Clouds of witnesses carry our blessed assurance with us and for us. Faith is how we, in Christian community, carry each other. Thanks be to God!
O Christ, pioneer and perfector of our faith, we give thanks for those present, past, and yet to come, with whom we share our deepest assurance of your abiding grace. Amen.
Written by Nancy Benson-Nicol, Associate Pastor for Caring Ministries and Spiritual Formation
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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