Trinity IX Evensong: Hebrews 11:17–31

The Letter to the Hebrews was written to help and to encourage a group of Christians probably resident in Italy, and in all likelihood in Rome, who were wavering , who were losing heart, and who were about to turn away from Christianity back to Judaism. The author has spent much of the letter focussing on the unique nature of Jesus Christ, who as high priest and sacrificial offering has atoned for our sins in a way that the ceremonies of Yom Kippur cannot.
          To encourage his audience further, the author sets about giving an account of heroes of faith in the history of the people of Israel. And it is from this section where faith itself and those who are outstanding examples of faith are praised that this evening’s second lesson is taken.
          Abraham shows his faith in God by offering all to God. He does not cling on to his own son, Isaac, but willingly offers him. This sacrifice, where God provides a ram, looks forward to Jesus, who is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. God will not hold back, but gives his own son, for love of those he made, to restore their relationship with him. By faith, Moses leads the people of Israel through the Red Sea on dry land. He looks forward to that great Passover when Christ will pass over from death to new life, breaking down the gates of hell, and offering a promised land of new life with God, of eternal life with him.
This is our faith, this is the faith of the Church, and we should hold fast to it. It is why St Paul can single out faith, hope, and love as the three theological virtues. They should mark us out as Christians that we can have faith in God, and in his saving works, which have given us the hope of eternal life in him.
          Thus, it is the vocation of a Christian to hold fast to this faith, not to fall into error, and to live out this faith in our lives. In living out our faith we bear witness to it, and to the saving works of God. We bear witness to what God has done for all humanity, and by our example we draw others to follow our example and to follow Christ, to commit their lives to him, and to walk in his way. Thus we share the light of Christ with others and help them to walk in his light and to share that light, so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion, and power, now and forever.

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