The writer as storyteller spends the rest of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews naming people of faith who put their trust in God in myriad circumstances. This week’s lectionary reading speaks of Abraham and Sarah who follow God to a new place and trust in God’s power of procreation even though they are old—“too old.” Such trust leads to many descendants, uncountable like stars or sand, from the highest heavens to the lowly earth.
Sarah and Abraham are called to move, to experience life as foreigners in a strange, new land. Later, the psalmist and many of the prophets remind the Hebrew people that their experience as strangers should teach them to be kind to the foreigners in their midst. But often they forget and treat foreigners as enemies. The writer of Hebrews links the earthbound experience of being foreigners to the seeking of a better country beyond death, a heavenly home that welcomes them. God prepares a city for them, a large city, it seems, since the descendants number as many as grains of sand in the desert.
A speaker I recently heard says he prefers to use the term “people move,” instead of the often more charged words “refugees” or “immigrants.” Going back to Abraham and Sarah and throughout history, people move for many and varied reasons. Sarah and Abraham let go of their established life, their familiar surroundings, and set out to follow God’s call. It is not easy to move, to pack up and go without a new address waiting. The tent symbolizes their transient status.
For the writer, willingness to follow God’s call demonstrates faith. Listening and obeying, trusting and moving forward; these skills and practices continue to prove useful today as we discern God’s call for our life.
Loving God, soften my heart, unstop my ears, and shrink my fears so that I may hear and respond to your call. Amen.
The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because they have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of having faith. Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.
Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you offer thanksgiving as sacrifice and go in the right way?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?
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