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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 16, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Hebrews 11:29–12:2

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

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 closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (NRSV)

Reflection
As a resurrection people, we proclaim that we believe in possibility, hope, second chances, and new life. We say that we believe in forgiveness, redemption, and radical transformation. Sometimes faithfulness to these convictions requires us to take a stand, to set a limit, to resist things that seem wrong and continue to do the things that seem right. But the spirit can grow weary.

I am struck by the list of heroes in this scripture, the great cloud of witnesses who surround us. They confronted so much. They suffered so much. And yet they continued to believe in something different than what they were experiencing. In the face of evil, in the face of injustice, in the midst of cruelty, pain, and suffering, their perseverance was grounded in their convictions about what was right and wrong.

Sometimes, in a world with so much brokenness, to believe in goodness and justice and healing requires an act of will. Today I am thinking about faithfulness as a willful commitment to the good and the beautiful. I want to have the strength and perseverance that comes from that kind of conviction and commitment.

Prayer
Strong God of Love, fill my heart with perseverance today. Strengthen my trust in your goodness, so that I may have the power to live out my faith today and every day. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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