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By Faith

…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,… Hebrews 12:1b-2a


Dear Friends in Christ,

I pray that you are well and thriving! My bout of COVID is behind me and I’m looking forward to seeing you this weekend. Though one note: my sabbatical presentation will not be this Sunday, but rather Sunday, August 28 after the 10:30 service coffee hour (Vestry meets this Sunday after worship). Thanks for all your prayers for me and others who are still dodging the dregs of the pandemic.

So how are you persevering? Sometimes we are motivated by goals and success, or by projects or crises in front of us. Sometimes, we are called to perseverance, staying steady even when the going is difficult. We’re not the first Christians to face this call.

In recent Sundays, we’ve heard from the letter to the Hebrews, an old sermon preached to encourage the faithful in the challenges of faithfulness. In chapter 11, the preacher starts to recount a long list of heroes of God’s people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, David, Samuel and the prophets and apostles—all revered for their faithfulness to God and their example for God’s people. In each case, the preacher drives the cadence: “By faith… by faith…by faith…” Each of these heroes responded to God’s calls and accomplished those deeds “by faith.” What does that mean? What does that mean for you and me?

The chapter begins: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith has to do with belief. Faith has to do with trust—trust not in an outcome, per se, but trust in God and God’s goodness and God’s purpose for us, however mysterious it might be to us. Faith has to do with the trustworthiness of God’s calls to us in life. We set out on these adventures with God without seeing exactly where we will end. But by faith, we trust God to be with us, to provide for us and empower us through the challenges and hardships along the way. The preacher recounts some of the hardships those heroes faced too.

But the preacher also has faith that God’s promises for these heroes of the past are linked to his promises to us—promises of new life in Christ greater than anything we can face. Having recounted all these heroic stories, the preacher claims that these heroes await with us the completion of it all—their “perfection” in Christ—with us. “Therefore,” he writes,” 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 our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2.

Looking to Jesus, we gain clarity for our confusing world. Looking to Jesus, we are reminded of what Christian integrity looks like and the difference God makes when we choose it. Looking to Jesus, we know that we stand not on our own strength, but on the strength of him who made us and gives us life.

Whatever you face in life, look to Jesus, the one who completes and perfects your trust in him, the one greater than anything you face. The preacher also reminds us that we do not run this race alone, but we run this race strengthened by each other in the Christian Community, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who also run by faith.

God bless you in this race, and may you hear my cheers and the cheers of others encouraging you along the way!

Yours in Christ,

-Tom

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