By Pamela Lewis
A Reading from Hebrews 11:1-12
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3By 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.
4 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. 5By 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.” 6And 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. 7By 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.
8 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. 9By 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. 10For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By 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. 12Therefore 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.”
Saint Paul not only provides his now-famous definition of faith, but strengthens it by presenting us with a sampling of Old Testament figures who embodied great faith, even if they were unsure of whether their faith would bear fruit. Abel’s faith made his sacrifice more excellent before God, who commended his offerings, and in death Abel’s faith still speaks. In Enoch, we witness one whose faith moved him to diligently seek and please God, who in turn did not allow Enoch to see death. Moved by faith and holy fear, although rejected by his neighbors for building an enormous boat on dry land, Noah built the ark that spared his household, but that also exposed the world’s lack of faith. Propelled by their faith and believing in the covenant they had formed with God, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, made a home in a promised but unknown land, and, although of advanced age and barren, give birth to a son. Because of their extraordinary faith, God is faithful to his earlier promise to them by multiplying their seed like the stars and the sand. Faith begets faith.
Hope enables us to dream about and to plan for the future. But faith constitutes our assurance and certainty in God’s faithfulness. This supports our hope, even when our plans falter or fail. These figures of great faith attest that all who honestly seek God and act in accordance with the knowledge of him they possess, will always see their faith bear good fruit.
Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.
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Today we pray for:
Diocese of Aba Ngwa North (Nigeria)
St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas