This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
King James Version (KJV)
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
12 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This is an magnificent piece of writing in its original Greek but it is especially well rendered in the King James’ translation into English. Of course the meditation on “faith” begins at Hebrews 11: 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” which sets people of faith in opposition to the received wisdom of the world because they hope for something better and see realities beyond the material facts. Abraham, who obeyed God’s call to leave his own city and journeyed in the hope of one that was promised to him, is made the exemplar of all of whom it can be said, “God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he has prepared a city for them.”
When I see again and again that ordinary saints of faith and goodness have died without seeing what they hoped for, I use these words to tell myself the truth: God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
In this passage such saints are displayed as models of faith; they took on the forces of evil and suffered without conceding defeat. The greatest illumination for me is in the words in parenthesis, “of whom the world was not worthy.” They acted as if they were already living in a better world, contradicting injustice brutality and even death by their faithfulness to their vision. This phrase signals that I should not think of “faith” as specifically Christian or Jewish, but rather as human. The faith of the saints makes them signs of hope, that humanity can cooperate in its own rescue; and evidence of the unseen rescuer who is God.
The passage offers me a new characterisation of Jesus: he, like the saints, arouses faith by his hopeful, faithful living; but he not only confirms the way of the saints, he completes it by his journey through suffering and death into the kingdom of God: he is the pioneer of humanity, the author and finisher of faith. The way he has pioneered is forever open to all the saints, even the most feeble.
On this All Saints Day I can give thanks for the many saints I’ve known, the great cloud of witnesses who compass me about; and I can try, once again, “to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets me, and run with patience the race that is set before me.”