The Sermon title is Faith That Endures
Early Thoughts: What is faith? What worth is faith? Can we run the race and persevere?
And where does the cloud (or crowd) of witnesses come from? Where do they fit in to our life now?
We are inheritors from those who have gone before us. They are the cloud of witnesses. They are the ones who have laid the road. It is up to us to do the same for those who will come after us.
Faith is commonly equated (when used in a religious sense) with believing. BUt it is far more than that. Faith is one of the words Marcus Borg talks about in his book Speaking Christian. In that volume Borg challenges the reader to recover earlier understandings of a variety of words and concepts. Faith comes from the same Latin root as Fiduciary, being faithful is a matter of love and trust and commitment, not about believing (Borg also suggests that modern Christians use the word believe wrongly by the way).
So what is this faith that the writer of Hebrews is talking about? Is it believing in a set of doctrines/statements/ideas or is it trusting in God, relying on God, floating in God as in a deep pool of water? I suggest the passage only makes sense if it is the latter. Trusting in God, floating in God (in whom, according to the book of Acts, we live and move and have our being) has empowered people to change the world despite hardships big and small. Do we have the faith and trust to run the race that is before us and persevere?
We run our race in the presence of the great cloud of witnesses. Near the end of Deathly Hallows, when Harry goes out to face death at the hands of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named he uses the fabled Resurrection Stone--a stone that can bring the dead back to life. And so he marches off to his death with the support and comfort of those he loves who have died. Yes, as he approaches the Death Eater camp he drops the stone and so the figures of those he loves disappear but Harry knows that he is not alone. This is the great cloud of witnesses. Those who have gone before us, with their own successes and failures, those who have run their race and continue to support the rest of us in the running.
The secret to faith that endure, to living faithfully within the cloud of witnesses is in remembering that we are supported by the cloud but not directed by it. We are inheritors of those who have gone before, but not imprisoned by them. If we are to live as faithful people we have to trust in the God who may call us in a whole new direction. I read a quote on Facebook this week:
There are those of us who prefer a dead Christ in his place to a living one outside of our control.There is truth in that. The church is guilty of wanting to confine or contain God: Creator Christ and Spirit all 3. But being faithful means trusting in the Living God, the Risen Christ, who shatters all boxes and preconceptions. Can we embrace that God and run the race and persevere?
Only with faith and trust. Add some dust and we can fly.
Shall we fly together?