Hebrews 11:1-3; 8-16
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
Pentecost 12C omits these verses
4By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. 5By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and "he was not found, because God had taken him." For it was attested before he was taken away that "he had pleased God." 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore." 13All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
15If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Sermon series probably addressed to Hebrew Christians about 60 C.E., Brings us Jesus Christ as Son of God and Son of Man—fully human and fully divine. Many details relate to the book of Leviticus; discusses Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods; lifts up the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ. Hebrews contrast the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Both were covenants of grace, though the old interspersed quite a few works.
Interesting factoid: Hebrews is one of seven books in Martin Luther's antilegomena – literally spoken against – "leftovers" in the biblical canon. Luther's list also includes books of James (famously), Revelation, Jude, 2 John, 3 John, and 2 Peter.
Today's passage omits Hebrews 11:4-7 that tells about the faithfulness of Abel, Enoch, and Noah. The author's cloud of witnesses continues later in the book of Hebrews.
The first reading for Pentecost 12C also features Abraham—when his name still was Abram:
1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great."
2But Abram said, "O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir." 4But the word of the Lord came to him, "This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Throughout the witness of scripture we heard about the promise and the gift of land. Turf. Sod. Dirt. Ground. The stuff that comprises our bodies. The places on which we tread.
God tells Abram to go to a place, a land, "I will show you." The future always is unknown to everyone. Many of us die without ever fully realizing or seeing the full outcome of God's promises.
Abram's act of trusting God led from a solitary twosome of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah to a great cloud of witnesses, of faithful followers, more than stars in the sky, more than grains of sand.
Our individual act of trusting God by grace in the power of the HS leads to an uncountable number of witnesses.
Discussion: I started with Mother Teresa's answer to God's call and claim on her life; several participants told us about examples of faithfulness they'd seen and experienced.
This time I had a whole lot more notes than we got to on Sunday; I may type and post those later as a separate blog, but wanted to get this blogged and needed to get onto considering Pentecost 13C.