It is possible to become so attached to what’s happening in the world around us, or even with another person, that we lose the ability to move forward with life. As one who likes to ride my bicycle, I can tell you that it’s very difficult to ride on the streets of Muscatine when I’m constantly looking over my shoulder to see what’s coming up from behind.
The book of Hebrews uses the example of faith as a reminder to the early Jewish-Christians that God, through the Holy Spirit, uses faith to propel faithful people forward. “By Faith the people passed through the Red Sea…. By faith the walls fell… By faith a prostitute did not perish…
The one who has faith was saved.
That doesn’t mean that life was easy for the faith. Nor, should we ever suspect that our faith in Christ is an easy thing. It’s not “cake-walk” and will demand a lot if we are truly living into a mature life of faith. But, the letter to the Hebrews recalls that God doesn’t forsake faith. Nope. Not at all.
Everything in the text hinges on just one word… Therefore. “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 close, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
What strikes me about this letter of Hebrews is that our faith in Christ is built on each generation of believers passing on our shared value of faith in Christ to the next. My internship supervisor use to say, “The church is only one generation away from extinction.” We rely on each other to share the testimony of the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
As I look back on my journey of faith in Christ, I can see those folks who preceded and encouraged me in my life of faith. Certainly there are people of all ages who assisted and witness to me in my fashioning of my own faith. But what I seem to remember most was that the folks who I admired and looked up to the most were my elders who, not so much spoke words of testimonials to me, but rather how they lived out their life journey offer to me a better way to life and that was the life of faith in Christ.
How often do we forget that people are watching? We watch and learn from each other. How we live our life’s matters. What witness am I sharing with those around me, especially my children and those who will come after me when my generation has passed?
Because what’s at stake in our life of faith in Christ is freedom. As Lutheran like to say, “In Christ I am free to love and serve my neighbor.” Of course, we value our freedom in this country to be able make our own opinion and thoughts; worship God how we choose. And yet, Freedom also may come from not being in control of our own life, but also from a willingness to move with the events of life as they come.
At some point, our bodies will not respond to life the way they used to. None of life in that mythical “never-never land” where everyone stays the same age. You know, the land where Peter Pan takes Wendy. In real-life we grow older. We grow wiser.
Freedom allows the opportunity to take life as we receive it, trusting that God has a plan and that we are part of God’s great plan.
So often, our faith in God’s direction for our life, can mean that we remember the generations of people and the past, to hold onto the memories but allowing ourselves the ability to let go of the past for our future events.
Faith gives us the power to choose, when necessary to choose life, even in the event of the inevitable fact that one day, all our life as we know it will come to end. And not only that… sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way we want it. Human being is more a verb than it is a noun. Each of our lives is a work in progress. God’s not done with any of us, yet.
Last, year I was reminded of that fact when I would walk into the halls of my daughter, Analise’s school. All the staff and faculty put signs outside their classrooms that ready, “ I haven’t done… Yet.” For example, my daughter’s teacher had a sign that read, “I can’t sew, yet.” Everything depends on the “yet.” What if we added the word, “yet” to all our personal assessments? What would change about the way we live? “I haven’t developed courage to speak up for myself, yet.” Or, “I haven’t learned how to be an emphatic person, yet.” You see, we can’t ever judge something until it is finished. None of us have lost or won anything, yet.
Fact is, we are “broken” as Paul tells us. We are all a work in process and our brokenness is only a stage in the process of life. We rely on our faith to see us through the brokenness in our life and world.
Sisters and brothers, hear again the words of scripture. “since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witness, let us set out to run the race looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith.”
Run your life of faith knowing that you are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witness who’ve run the race long before we have. Folks who have shared the most precious gift we know, that of faith in Christ. The gift that has the power to change us for God’s purpose of showing forth grace and love. Amen.