by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Scripture: Hebrews 11:29-12:2
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Memory Verse: Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.
Reflection on Scripture
I’m not a runner. I cringe thinking back to my elementary gym days and the required mile runs around the gym. My lungs start to hurt just thinking about running long distances. I don’t understand people who say they hate running but still push themselves to run marathons and races. Even with friends cheering me on I just don’t get running.
So when we hear from the author of the Letter to the Hebrews that we should run with perseverance the race that is set before us, I get nervous. I get anxious. I get a bit sweaty and uncomfortable. I look the other way hoping I’m not being addressed. You don’t mean I need to run, really, do you?
But then I read more, I read a bit deeper in the bible passage. The letter to the Hebrews tells the story of deep faith. By faith, we read, so many survived and persevered. The history of God’s people is retold so that we can find encouragement. From the Israelites to prophets and kings to those persecuted for their faith. Time and again, God’s people are called to tremendous acts of faith. And it’s not just that they have deep faith but more importantly that they proclaim the greatness of God through their lives and faith. Time and again we are bound to these ancestors of faith. Time and again we are bound to their suffering and joy. Time and again we are bound to Jesus, Christ crucified and risen.
These ancestors of faith are the ones we look to in our times of need, doubt, or lack of belief. These are the people who God called, just like God calls us. These are people who walk with us today. Who surround us. Reading this passage from Hebrews reminds me of the call we have to keep on moving. To keep believing. To keep living. To keep loving. And when we run or walk or have trouble putting one foot in front of the other, we are not alone. We are called to run this race, albeit not a pain-inducing, lung-filling run, but a run nevertheless filled with challenges, joys, and hopes. A run where so many are standing on the sidelines cheering us on. A run where Christ has already gone before.
Questions to Spark Discussion
*Do you like to run? Why or why not?
*Have you cheered for someone to let them know they were not alone?
*Has someone cheered for you with encouragement to keep going?
*Talk about someone from the great cloud of witnesses that inspires you.
Take a run or a walk as a family. As you walk or run give thanks for the witnesses who have gone before you and who continue to inspire and teach you. Look at the houses, businesses, and cars driving by – say prayers for those inside. Say a prayer to cheer them on in their lives.
God of journeys,
We thank you for this life
For the witnesses who have gone before and those to come.
Inspire us to be a witness to the faith
To love unconditionally
To serve wholeheartedly
To remember you and your life-giving grace.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
About Kimberly Knowle-Zeller: I’ve found that the places God calls me have been places I never knew existed: The Gambia, West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer and my current home, Cole Camp, Missouri, a town of 1,000. Yet everywhere I’ve been, words helped to make sense of my world, my place, and my vocation. I’m an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a toddler, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. When I’m not at the park with my daughter, attending church, out in town, or tending to our garden, you can find me with a pen and paper. Or a good book. And a cup of tea.