Summary: A sermon for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost sermon on the second lesson from Hebrews

12 Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 15

Lectionary 20

August 19

Hebrews 11:29-40

Hebrews 12:1-2

"Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses"

The sermon this morning is based on a our second lesson from Hebrews

I would like to quote just part of the text from Hebrews 11:

29* By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land; but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.

30* By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

31* By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given friendly welcome to the spies.

I would like to share these verses with you: from chapter 12:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings to closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith"

To understand the theme of this sermon and to prepare us for the mood of this message of faith, I would like you to listen carefully to the following story:

Two butterflies - colorful and majestic monarchs - sat side by side on a tree limb. Beside them was the ruptured cocoon from which they’d just emerged.

"Come fly with me," said the one.

"Caterpillars can’t fly,"said the other.

"But we’re not caterpillars anymore," said the first, flexing his new wings, stretching then their full span till they looked like magnificently crafted stained glass windows. "Those caterpillar days are gone forever."

"Don’t be silly," said the other. "We were born caterpillars and we’ll always be caterpillars. That’s the way it is."

"Well, then, why did the Maker see fit to give us tease wings?" said the one.

The other butterfly thought for a moment and then replied,"I don’t know. Some sort of cruel joke, I suppose. He did the same thing to the ostrich, you know."

"Nonsense!" said the first. "Look at all the other butterflies. They’re flying. What do you say to that?"

The second butterfly looked out over the meadow and said, "They’re not flying. They’re just being blown about by the wind. Stupid of them,too. Can’t they see it’s dangerous? Easy prey for hungry birds and, when they land, mischievous children as well. I’ll stick to crawling and climbing, thank you very much. It may be slow, but it’s safe and sure."

"It may be slow and safe and sure but it’s.....well, it’s unnatural. Butterflies fly!!!That’s the way the maker made us. That’s our role, our function, our fit: to dance on the wings of the air; to play tag with dandelions seeds; to soar; to dart; to float; to light on a single blade of grass to the delight of all who see;to inspire awe and wonder; to fascinate; to add a note of grace to this world’s dreary song," said the other as he flew into the air.

Can you feel the life, the happiness, the joy at being alive the soaring butterfly sensed as he flew off into space. This joy came because he knew the creator, the maker, had made him for a purpose to inspire, to fascinate, to add a note of grace to this world. He flourished in this role as he flew away with the rest of the butterflies.

In the same kind of way, our lives are filled with that same awareness of who’s we are and what we are. You and I are called by God to be children of faith surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, "others in faith" as we "run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith". As children of faith, we look forward to the coming of Christ as we endure in this world with a devotional love for Christ as we look to the future in the confidence of Christ.

In chapter 12, the author to the Hebrews continues his thought he began in chapter 11 about the faith of those who have gone on before. His idea of faith is a looking forward to the future, unknown and assured. We run our race with faith, with hope, with perseverance even though we do not know what the future will bring or what lies ahead or around the next curve in the road. We run always with Christ as our partner, looking ahead with His power to live as new creatures redeemed in the power of the resurrection.

The writer of Hebrews has us recall the faith of those who have gone before as an example to us of what we are to be. Children of faith.

We live as that butterfly, confident in the promise of God that we are His and our task on earth, whatever it may be, is given to us by God. We persist as ones who know the Lord and have a relationship with Him which allows a free flow of thoughts and ideas. We are, therefore, in communication with God talking to Him through Christ as a friend bringing all of ourselves to Him.

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