Showing items filed under “August 2016”

Getting Ready for Sunday: By the Rev. Michael Hoffman

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. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

When my grandfather walks into Milligan Springs Baptist Church on Sunday morning, he has to walk by the cemetery, which has served the families from the surrounding farms for 130 years. From the front porch of the church, he can see the grave of his mother, his father, his sister, his daughter, and more cousins than you can count. When he kneels in prayer, he is literally surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

The Church did not start the day that you were baptized. Thousands of years before you were born, Abraham made a covenant with God, Moses parted the Red Sea, David danced before the ark, Esther saved her people, Isaiah prophesied repentance, Mary said yes to an angel, Peter walked on water, Stephen proclaimed the gospel while being stoned to death, and Paul lit a fire around the Mediterranean Sea. Responding to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, saints such as Benedict, Alban, Theresa, and Bonhoeffer have expanded the Kingdom of God and become models of faith. We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

But the most significant witnesses are not the famous ones, but the people who bore witness to the good news of Christ in your life, like an old rancher named Billy Bob who taught my Sunday school class or my grandmother who shines with a holy wisdom. All of these people have been running the race, but now it is your turn.

As we gather together on Sunday morning to hear the Word of God and share in Christ’s Body and Blood, we do so surrounded by a great cloud of witness. And we join in the race. Take some time to reflect on the witnesses of God’s love in your life and how you are to respond in the present.

The Rev. Michael Hoffman is the rector of St. Peter's in McKinney

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Getting Ready for Sunday by The Rev. Dr. Samira Izadi Page

Christians often talk about faith and yet, faith is one of the most misunderstood and abused words among Christians. Faith sometimes is reduced to a set of abstract propositions about the death and resurrection of Jesus and their relationship to where we spend the eternity. Sometime faith is a magic wand that if we have it, our prayers do come true, and if our prayers do not come true, we do not have it. To some, faith is something that we possess just as we possess a car or an intellectual property. For some, faith is never put to test in extreme measures. When we read chapter 11 in the book of Hebrews, however, we get a picture that is much more comprehensive and beautiful. Faith is a spiritual reality that causes the faithful to take action, to respond, and to obey God. It grows us up into the fullness of the stature of Christ. Faith seems to be like a river that waters the seeds God has planted into our souls and develops them into fruit-bearing trees in our lives.

Faith is not an individualistic, self-serving affair. Faith always serves the purposes of God, for God has “prepared a city” in advance. (Heb. 11:16) Faith is the force behind the works of our hands and feet, hearts and minds toward the completion of that “city.”

Have you ever wondered why in Hebrews 11 we learn about all these people who had done things by faith? I think it is because faith is transmitted through the community of the faithful people of God. The testimony of other faithful initiates, encourages, up-builds, and upholds our faith. Acknowledging the saints; be it Abraham or Peter, Dr. King or St Bernadette of Lourdes, is one of the beauties of the Anglican tradition. When times get tough and our hearts restless, the example of their faith sustains ours. Post Biblical examples of the faithful saints are reminders that faithfulness is not limited to the holy figures in the Bible. Faith is available to all.

What is this “faith” by which the people in Hebrews 11 took action? While faith can be intellectually explored, explained, and adhered to, it is real only if it is known in one’s heart intimately. Several of the figures mentioned in Hebrews 11 are people who perhaps could not articulate the articles of the faith, but they had a heart-knowledge of faith. This heart-knowledge is an active and abiding trust in God and obedience to God’s direction that seems blind to the real circumstances to the outsider. This kind of knowledge has to do with the faithfulness of God. And, we know God is faithful because we have seen it throughout the history of God’s people reaching its climax through the faithfulness of Christ.

As many of you know, I have a ministry that mobilizes the Church to reach refugees. I hear testimonies of many persecuted Christians who are often new believers. Their faith is often simple and yet, sustaining because it is a heart-knowledge. Most recently, I faced a situation that was deeply personal. My sister and her husband came to faith in Iran and were subsequently insulted, threated, and physically assaulted by her husband’s family. She could have hidden or denounced her new beliefs, but “by faith,” she stood up for Christ boldly. Through her sharing, fourteen other people converted to Christianity in one month. She had to flee Iran a few days ago into Turkey, but she will be a missionary for as long as she will be there. As it turns out, God had already made provisions for her in Turkey through connections that came about randomly a few years ago with Gateway of Grace. They were amazingly exact as though coordinated and indeed, they were by God. By faith, she took actions that seemed dangerous, unwise, and costly to an unbeliever, but God had already prepared “a city.” (Heb. 11:16) By the faithfulness of God, we have a heart-knowledge of faith. I hope and pray that all of us have a by- faith story. What is yours?

The Rev. Dr. Samira Izadi Page is the Executive Director of Gateway of Grace in Dallas


This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.