8/18/2013

Scripture and sermon today is based on Hebrews 11:29 - 12:2

Our scripture today is Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2.

Much  ado is being made today over cloud computing. It's a way to stay connected to the world around us. We're told to believe that life is simpler when you're connected to the cloud. It's easier to share documents and other information when you're hooked up to the cloud.

Long before we had cloud computing we had another way to stay connected. It's called cloud witnessing. The passage in Hebrews gives us examples and reassures us that we are surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses". What does that really mean? Does the cloud of witnesses exist solely in the Bible or are there people around us today who witness to us?

The answer is both. There are witnesses around us who bolster us spiritually. But, we can also look to the lives mentioned in Hebrews and be inspired. We essentially get the best of both the past and the present.

Have you ever needed a faith hero to bolster your courage? That's what this passage is all about. Never before have role models and faith heroes been needed. We are assaulted on all sides with the temptation to set aside our spiritual development. Work, soccer practice and the daily grind can take us away from our work to become stronger Christians.

Times when we are scared or just fed up with life can be overwhelming. The struggle can cause us to stumble with our relationships as well as our faith.

What this passage in Hebrews does is it reminds us that there are heroes of faith who have walked before us. Studying the scripture can also open our eyes to the people around us who walk in faith. There are people who put their lives on the line, people that we know or read about who have faith to inspire us.

When we talk about modern-day faith heroes we are talking about:.

  • Firefighters, EMS workers, officers, soldiers who have faith are heroes that we can look up to. Sometimes they are recognized but often they are not. Their bravery and courage allows us to live our lives with security. We know that we can call firefighters to put out a house fire. EMS will respond if we need an ambulance. 
  • Soldiers respond to needs that we don't even know about (or want to know about). Police officers catch the bad guys. Society wound't be the same without these heroes.
  • Anyone who can face a group of kids everyday is a hero. I saw a t-shirt once that read: "Nothing scares me. I'm a teacher." That is probably pretty close to the truth. They have my admiration.

I have other heroes too. These are personal heroes who have inspired me in my journey.

  • One of them is the mother of my best friend from middle school. Her mom returned to college after 50, survived breast cancer and volunteers with different groups. She is one strong lady. By the way, she was also a teacher. That makes her a double (or triple) hero in my book!
  • My best friend from high school. She deserves to be called a hero for surviving our friendship for so long.
  • A friend who lived with domestic violence and found the faith to walk away. Her life truly was in danger but she persevered.
  • An elderly couple comes to my church every Sunday under their own power. They are in their upper 80's. I just hope to see 80.
  • A young adult has been married for just over a year now. She has battled health challenges since infancy.  
  • Another young adult who has overcome incredible odds. A doctor said that she might not be able to live independently but she proved them wrong.
The scripture of Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2 talks about "a great cloud of witnesses". It also talks about facing life with perseverance.

Sometimes the faith that we see in the passage is born in fear.

Can you imagine the terror felt by the Israelites when they crossed the Red Sea?

They were faced with what was almost a "Custer's last stand" kind of choice. They could choose between battling an advancing army or crossing the Red Sea that parted before them. What kind of choice is that? It is against nature for a raging sea that's teeming with wildlife to part.

The Israelites must have wondered how long it would last. Family members who were separated must have been concerned for each other. They must have been concerned that the army would catch them and that they would perish.

Yet, an entire nation pressed onward. Their faith was developed out of fear, desperation and the need to trust.

We typically fail to internalize stories like the parting of the Red Sea. Of course they had faith! God was with them! God is with us too. Would we cross the Red Sea? I hope so.

Then we have the story of Rahab, the prostitute. Oh Rahab! Don't you wonder what she was thinking? Men knocked on her door and she treated them as houseguests. When spies came later Rahab sent them in the wrong direction. She then went to her guests in faith to ask that her family be spared. The houseguests were scouts. An army would be coming. Would they save her family.

The answer was yes. But, there was a stipulation. She, a prostitute, was to hang a scarlet cord from her window. As long as brilliant red cloth was displayed in the window then she would be saved. Otherwise, when the invaders came the safety of her family would not be guaranteed.

Rahab, a prostitute who harbored the enemy and who lied to government officials did as she was told. It took weeks for the invaders to arrive. The cloth remained. Not only was her family saved but she became part of the lineage of Jesus!

Are Rahab and the Israelite nation not heroes of faith? Do they not form our understanding of what faith is and serve as role models in the development of our spiritual development. I hope that your answer is yes.

We find what we seek. When we look for heroes it's easier to see that they are all around us. Faith heroes are in the Bible and are all around us. Each one is part of the "cloud of witnesses" and each brings inspiration into our lives and push us on toward a deeper faith journey.

How about you? Who are your heroes? How have they shaped your life?

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