We are not the first, nor the last generation, called to sacrifice certainty. Growing up, I remember hearing family stories around the dinner table of ancestors who risked their lives in search of a better future for their descendants. There were the aunts and uncles who fled the terror of the Jim Crow South as part of the Great Migration - a period of history in which nearly 6 million Black Americans moved from rural South to the great cities of the industrial North. They moved with the little they had unsure of what would welcome them when they arrived. Yet, they trusted in their God to make a way.
Hebrews 11 is full of examples of biblical figures who chose trust in the absence of certainty. It is a distinguished list of matriarchs and patriarchs that function as a “Faith Hall of Fame”. Here we find the superheroes and superheroines of the biblical tradition whose lives of service to God are revered in stained glass windows, sermons, and liturgy.
Verses 8-16 amplify the story of Abraham and Sarah, two of the most important figures in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. When God called Abraham, he set out not knowing where he was going or what was in store for him. The good news is that Abraham and Sarah are not flawless.
Often when figures are held up as exemplary models of faith it can feel difficult to measure up.
It is glimpses of Abraham and Sarah’s humanity that we get in the biblical narrative that show us how God can hold our doubt, pain, and questions as we wait patiently to move us into the unexpected. Abraham asked God why it was taking so long for God to give him the descendants that were promised (Genesis 15: 2-3). When Sarah overheard God saying that she would get pregnant in her old age, she famously laughed and then lied when she got caught (Genesis 18:10-15).
God does not call us to perfection but to patience. God’s view of time is much longer than our own. God holds in the palm of God’s hands all that ever was and all that will be. God is also empathetic. That is why as we wait, God does not require us to be silent but opens space for dialogue.
What questions do you have for God today?
The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because the people have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of simply “having faith.” Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.
Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you “bring Thanksgiving as [your] sacrifice” and “go the right way”?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.