I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God;
I will present to you thank offerings.
For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God in the light of the living. (Ps. 56:11-12)
The discussion in my Education for Ministry (EfM) group yesterday centered on two topics — rehearsing the stories of our faith and shaping our lives with practices that distinguish us from the society around us.
Those who are reading in Year One of EfM had read Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55) and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which recount and reflect on the return of the Jews from the exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the Temple. While in exile, the Jews focused on the Torah, circumcision, and the Sabbath as practices that distinguished them from the society around them.
Those in Year Two had read the Letter to the Hebrews, which is an extended theological argument, as much a sermon as anything else, recounting Christ’s divinity and his humanity. The EfM commentary notes:
The recipients [of the letter] needed it to help them understand, but even more to help them endure, to remain steadfast in the hope that God had given them through Christ. This letter reminds us that, although we are not likely to suffer for our faith, we do need to remain faithful in a world that seems to be increasingly uninterested in or even hostile to the Christian faith.
How are you strengthened by hearing the stories of your faith? What practices help you claim your identity as a Christian distinct from the society around you?