Thursday of Pentecost 9 – Hebrews 11:1-16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Not long ago, I was helping to haul a few things into our church for an event. A man was walking buy, pulling a rolling cart of some sort, a cart which was being put to a purpose for which it had not been intended. Two empty water jugs were held on with bungee cords. He was one of the people who live in the many encampments which dot our city. He stopped and asked if he could get some water.

We walked to the back of the church where we have a hose and I turned on the valve which allowed him to fill his jugs. His name is Jake, or at least that is what he told me. He had friend who had told him that he could get him a job. He was trying to get cleaned up for his interview the next day. That is why he needed the water. I gave him some food too. I wished him well and watched him trundle off with his water down the street. I still don’t know how that interview went. I don’t know if it even happened or if he was feeding me a story which he thought I wanted to hear.

He was right, I wanted to hear it. I want him to get a job, get off the street, stabilize his life so he can live better and healthier. I would have given him water and food without the story. Yet, as I reflect on this passage, I must admit that I am more like this homeless man than not. I see this man and the many like him throughout my city and I feel that the promised heavenly kingdom is far off. I greet the pearly gates and golden streets of John’s heavenly vision from afar. My shoes are far too messy for that those immaculate streets, my life as I live it does not belong there. I am restless, seeking a homeland where lives are not ruined by addictions, mental illness, and cycles of poverty which are stubbornly entrenched. I live in and am part of a world which looks more like a homeless encampment than heaven. I am seeking a homeland where my own pettiness, sin, and self-centeredness have no place.

If I am to get there, if I am to see blessing here, it will be by faith, trusting in God’s promises and acting on that trust.

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