I feel like I need to preface this post by saying that the Hebrews passage for this week is one of my favorites and I often look forward to preaching on it. I usually read it as a reminder of how many, many generations of people have wrestled with faith and run the race to it’s completion. I love the image of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. It’s a great image of hope and encouragement. But work has been intense these days. I’ve witnessed some difficult acts of aggression and violence that are not easy to let go of. My vacation is coming soon, so all shall be well.
But my thoughts on this Hebrews passage shifted this morning. That cloud of witnesses that I think of as cheering us on, turned into one disappointed and trying to find words that will get us running the race again. You see, on my drive into work I heard about the violence in Egypt and the hopelessness people on both sides feel about the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks. When I came home and looked for more information about these stories, I found more violence in Egypt, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, and possible sabotage to submarines in India.
These events, though far from where I sit, feel overwhelming and I cannot make sense of them. I keep hearing the words to “God of Grace and God of Glory” in the back of my mind as I try to understand the violence that slashes through the world today.
Isaiah says, “he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” When will our response to God’s love for us be justice for all people?
Jeremiah reminds us that God is nearby and not far off. Our ways are not hidden from God. Why have we not learned to take better care of the gifts we have been given?
Hebrews speaks to the lineage we have as God’s children. We are not alone. We are, in fact, “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” What are they saying to us? What do they call out to us?
Luke shares Jesus’ message of division. It’s not a comforting message for sure. But I have to wonder if Jesus isn’t still waiting for his fire to be kindled. There have been flames here and there, but a fire that burns so brightly and clearly? I don’t know…as we try to run this race?
I don’t have an answer to these questions. I don’t have anything more than a yearning for humanity to do better and stop breaking the heart of our Creator. So I will keep singing the hymn that has echoed through my thoughts all day. And I will add the words of the Psalmist: Restore us, O Sovereign God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
RCL – Year C – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 18, 2013
Isaiah 5:1-7 with Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 or
Jeremiah 23:23-29 with Psalm 82