Narrative Lectionary Hebrews Week 5
Additional Resources for Study & Proclamation
Hebrews 11:1-16 (12:1-2); (Matt 8:5-10)
Faith Doesn’t Have to be This Hard
Furthering the Power of God’s Story – Narrative Lectionary Commentary
by Pastor Ron Valadez
We made it! Our fifth and final week in Hebrews! I pray that it has been a fruitful time for you and your congregation, exploring this beautiful love letter. Your work has paid off dear preacher, for our author has saved the best for last! In trying to explain what makes Jesus so amazing, we finally come to Jesus’ faithfulness, the crème de la crème.
If you haven’t done so already with your congregation, this would be a good opportunity to talk about what faith actually is. Faith is a word that we use all the time in our churches but we rarely dissect it. We just assume we all know what we are talking about but I’d hazard to guess that we all mean something a little different. What I like to emphasize with people is how faith is much more than just an intellectual belief in a set of doctrines—it is trust. In fact, the Greek word used in this week’s reading (11 times!), pistis, can also be translated as trust. A fun exercise to help you explore this aspect of pistis is to reread these verses replacing the word “faith” with “trust” each time. Try it now! I’ll wait.
Gives a different feel to the word, let alone the passage, doesn’t it? It’s a healthy exercise, especially because there are a lot of unhealthy ideas surrounding faith. There is often a lot of judgement inherent in conversations about faith. Somewhere along the line, we got it into our heads that faith is somehow quantifiable, that some have a lot of it and some have little. It’s a very unhealthy idea, and I don’t think it’s very accurate either. When discussing faith in a Bible study, you can just see the dread on people’s faces, as if they’re going to be outed for not having enough of it in front of everyone! We must correct this.
To help correct this, one must only look at the characters in this list of faithful ancestors from chapter eleven. They were commended for their trust, but they were far from perfect! They were as faulty as any of us! And yet, here they are, lifted up for their trust in God, immortalized in our holy scripture! They’d probably laugh if they were told that’s where they’d end up! At least Sarah would. (Did you see what I did there?) The point is, faith is not how good you are, how much you know, or how famous a Christian you’ll become. It boils down to trust.
But back to Jesus! Jesus is only mentioned in the last verse of our reading but what our author says about Jesus is tremendous, compelling us to, “fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.” The pioneer of faith! The perfecter of faith. If you think your congregation is up for it, and if you haven’t already done this, you could get into how Jesus is the perfecter of faith by introducing them to the “pistis christou” debacle! Is it “faith in Christ” or “faith of Christ” or both? Seminary flashbacks! Aaaaaaack! However, it could be a beautiful opportunity to relieve some more of their tension regarding faith.
And that’s exactly what this passage, and the book entire, should really be doing in the lives of its readers—relieving tension, providing hope, and fostering encouragement for the journey. Our author wants us to walk away from this book with all of these things and more. The idea here is to lighten the load not burden us. Religion has done enough of that already, and the author of Hebrews clearly knew that. Blessings to you in this final week my fellow proclaimer. Thank you for all you do.
Some application questions: Have you ever felt like you didn’t have enough faith, and if so, what made you feel that way? How would you define faith? Have you had people in your life whose faith you’ve admired, and if so, what do you think they’d say about their faith? What religious tension can we relieve in others?
Quick Jump Menu
The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. For more free worship resources & planning materials, please visit RCL Worship Resources, a sister-site of Clergy Stuff.
In addition to the plethora of resources that you can find on sites like textweek.com, here are a few more to help ignite your imagination. Some old, some new, and some are a bit outside the box, but when you’re struggling with direction, sometimes a different approach is all that’s needed.
What caused the shift from “Faith Of Christ” to “Faith In Christ” in modern translations?—In case you lost your notes from seminary, here’s a great start on the pistis christou debacle.
Was Luther Wrong? We’re saved by the faith OF Christ.—Another great review of pistis christou, this one challenging Luther himself!
Miracles—This song challenges the notion that faith and action always coalesce. Sometimes our actions, our rituals, are what sustain us, not our faith, and vice versa, depending on the day.
A Good Read
Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman's Journey with Depression and Faith
by Monica A. Coleman
Take a ride on this roller coaster of faith from the life of Monica Coleman and her family. Not for the faint of heart.
Free Dramatic Reading For This Text (NRSV)
Readers: Reader, Congregation
Reader: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Congregation: Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.
Reader: By 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.
Congregation: By 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.
Reader: By 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.”
Congregation: And 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.
Reader: By 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.
Congregation: 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.
Reader: 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.
Congregation: For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Reader: 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.
Congregation: 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."
Reader: 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.
Congregation: If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.
Reader: 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.