After last Sunday and our discussion I think it could be fun to spend some time with the book of Hebrews. This is the largest non-Pauline letter in the Bible. Though throughout history the authorship has been debated. The King James Version does attribute it to Paul; however, most scholarship points other directions. The Authorship questions and debate has always placed a shadow on the text, since in some ways there are parts which stand in contrast to what Paul taught. This means that if Paul were the author it would represent changes rather then a difference of interpretation or witness.
This is a big thing, because it impacts how we go forward with the passage. Take the letters that are ascribed to Paul. When reading them chronologically, the reader will see a definite growth in the letters. Though the core witness does not change, Paul develops visions and understandings that shape how we continue to approach the Christian community, a great example being the Body, which is explicitly used in our Foundations section of the Book of Order (part of our denomination’s constitution).
Hebrews as a standalone text offers us a perspective that is knowingly different than the Pauline vision and goes to challenge our faith and understanding of God. But just as if you were to go hear two pastors preach on the same text, both would approach and preach differently, it does not make one right and the other wrong, but it will have the Holy Spirit challenging you to rethink and struggle in different ways.
All of this is to say that for the next five weeks we are going to talk about faith, and specifically how we interact with God and how that impacts our understanding of community.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
I think that this will be a great way for us to begin to explore two of the areas of interest that we lifted up in the importance of community and how God communicates with us, since it is by faith that both of those things happen and through our searching and struggles we begin to see and understand God.
The first examples this week are Abel, Enoch, and Noah. An interesting mix and some forefathers who definitely have some baggage! As bad as both Cain and Abel were, what was interesting about the faith reference of Abel is that he is the one who brought a sacrifice of belief and God deemed that more worthy than any physical sacrifice. For Enoch, the witness of faith is trust. The burden of Faith that Enoch teaches is that we need to not only believe that God exists, but we also have to trust that God cares for us. The last of the three who we look at this week is Noah, whose faith made him an outcast, yet also gave him salvation.
I hope that you can join us this week and the next five as we grow together in our faith.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen