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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Hebrews 11:8–16

By 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. By 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. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By 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. Therefore 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.” All 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, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But 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. (NRSV)

Many people find great satisfaction mapping their ancestry and learning what their relatives were like. In this passage Paul points us to Abraham and Sarah, who are our spiritual ancestors. Their story of living out their faith can help us deal with our own life challenges and spiritual journey.

Abraham  takes great risks and perseveres through hardship and uncertainty because he believes God’s promise that there is “the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Abraham models action in the interest of getting to that better place. He is not passive; he keeps striving and is not paralyzed by a lack of certainty. Because of our brokenness, most of us can identify “journeys” we are on where we hope to arrive at a better place. This journey may be about relationships, loss, addiction, career, wanting to help our city become less violent, wanting to help differences in our country be bridged. I am encouraged by Richard Rohr’s words “faith is not for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them—all the way through!”

Sarah’s experience teaches us that with God’s help we can create and make a contribution to this world even if it looks like the odds are stacked against us. This passage acknowledges that Abraham and Sarah could have gone back to what they knew and what was comfortable, but they kept answering the call to something better.

How are you called to persevere and take yourself, your relationships, your workplace, your city, this country, or this planet to a better place?

Dear God, thank you for giving us spiritual mentors who model for us having faith in your promise that you will be with us along the way as you guide us to a better place. Thank you for the gift of Christ who will be our constant companion. Help us believe that against all odds you will accomplish great things in and through us. Amen.

Written by Thomas Schemper, Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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