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Journey of Faith

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Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
(11-8-13)

It’s not often that we get to talk about ‘Hebrews’ so here’s some context. Not known who wrote it but it’s thought to be written AD70 just after the Romans have destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. This was in response to various Jewish factions who’d risen up against the Romans. Hebrews is written to the Jews who had become Christians and needed strengthening and encouraging. At this time of political and religious crisis, they could neither identify with Rome and its civic rituals nor with Jerusalem and its sacrificial worship.

Feeling marginalised from society, and dispossessed from their heritage they were falling away from their faith. The verse before today’s passage: ‘But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved’.

The letter of Hebrews offers the vision of ‘a better country, that is, a heavenly one’. In order to grasp that vision what they needed most was faith.

Play Curtis Mayfield ‘People get ready There's a train a comin'. "All you need is faith," A song from the 60’s echoing the writer of Hebrews. But what is faith? Reading: Hebrews 11:1-3 & 8-16 (NLT) The writer makes links between the old heroes of their faith and Jesus. Here he’s talking about the faith of Abraham and Sarah, how they set out on a journey not knowing where they were heading, but with complete faith in where God was leading them.

Abram & Sarai sketch based on Genesis 12

Sing Father Abraham song!

Abraham and Sarah accepted they were ‘strangers and foreigners’ on earth because ‘they desired a better country; that is, a heavenly one’. The writer wanted to encourage the Jewish Christians to recognise that following Jesus was a better way, a way that’s often unseen and therefore requires an act of faith.

They did what God asked them to do and God was true to his promises; Abraham (too old to reproduce) fathered a nation.

God has great things in store for us too; a ‘better country’, ‘a heavenly one’. If we have the faith to step out and follow him, he will lead us. In faith (as in resurrection) God calls new life out of that which is “as good as dead” (v12). God’s Word is a power that creates “what is seen ... from things that are not visible.”

When we have faith to trust God’s steadfast love, at least sometimes, we may find ourselves following Abraham on a journey into the dark, testing our own ‘conviction of things not seen’. In turn we can make this invisible gift of faith visible to others around us.

There are two dimensions to ‘faith’. First it provides a guarantee, a peg on which we hang our hopes. Because of faith, our hope has substance & reality. Faith provides a ground to which we hold fast.

But that grounding should also turn us toward the future and give us courage to move forward. This often means launching out into the unknown. Both dimensions of faith shone out in the lives of Abraham and Sarah. They show us that faithfulness requires both holding fast and moving forward.

‘Modern Day’ Abraham and Sarah sketch

Abraham and Sarah held on to their faith and despite being too old to have children they did. A became a father to many people, including us. Despite being wandering pilgrims they held on to the promise of land. Even after arriving in the promised land, they lived like strangers in a foreign country, in tents, always ready to pack up and move.

They did more than hold fast to the promise because they knew that the promise of God is also a call. So, they lived out the second dimension of faithfulness, that of moving forward, living in tents because they were not ultimately called to the land of Canaan.

The journey was part of their obedience but Canaan wasn’t to be their final home. They were looking for another city, a city with foundations not made with hands, "whose architect and builder is God".

They didn’t receive that promise in their lifetime. They only saw it on the horizon calling them on in their journey, moving them forward as they responded to God's call. Their faithfulness provided the courage that launched them into the unknown, moving into the future with God.

How do WE measure up to these two dimensions of faith? Holding fast in our faith AND moving forward? Two different things, many of us finding doing one thing easier than the other.

But we need both, as did Sarah and Abraham, who, in the midst of change and uncertainty, found God constant and faithful as they held fast to His promises and moved forward into what might have looked like an unknown future with Him.

The foundation of faith is one’s belief that God is the source of life, mercy and loving kindness, whatever else may appear to the contrary.

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