The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introduction to the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost,

This morning, we return again to the stories of those faithful ones in scripture, a parade of biblical heroes-our models of persistent faithfulness.  These ones named are ones whose deep faith helped them to achieve great things, oftentimes despite great odds to the contrary and not necessarily within their lifetimes. 

Imagine yourselves among those early Christians struggling to maintain hope and a vision for a better tomorrow. 

What words do you hear read aloud here that would sustain you and give you hope?

Reading from the New Standard Revised Version, beginning at the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, verses 29-40,

‘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 the faith the prostitute Rahab did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace. 

And what more shall I say?  For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Sampson, 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 the deserts and mountains, and I caves and in holes in the ground.  Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.”  Here ends the first part of our reading from the letter written for the Hebrews.

Our chosen hymn to bridge between the two readings this morning is found at VU#660 “How Firm a Foundation”.

Moving from despair to hope and from destruction to reconciliation and restoration often feels overwhelmingly daunting. 

Listen with care to this scriptural antedote taken from the twelfth chapter from the letter to the Hebrews, verses 1 and 2.

“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.”

For the word of God in scripture, for the word of God among us, for the word of God within us, thanks be to God.