Perseverance is a gift from God given at the end, and only at the end, to those who are faithful in Jesus Christ. In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with an angel of the Lord at Jabbok, and Jacob persists throughout the fight, even when he is injured, unfairly, it seems, by the angel. But it is only at the end of the match that Jacob receives the gift of perseverance, when the angel of the Lord yields to Jacob and grants him his request. Then, at the end, the angel blesses Jacob with the gift of perseverance.
In the same way, in Jesus’s parable of the unjust judge, a woman persists in her quest for justice. But perseverance comes for her only when the judge grants her request. If she had given up, of course, the woman never would have received the justice she was owed, and so she would not have persevered to the end. And if Jacob had given up, say, when the angel touched his hip, Jacob would not have received his new name, Israel, would not have received the Lord’s blessing, and so he would not have persevered to the end. Continue reading
Faith in God through Jesus Christ is always a particular gift. Faith isn’t something we do; it’s something we’re given by God. God invites us to trust him, and by God’s grace we respond according to the faithfulness Jesus himself lived. I can pray for you, I can read Scripture aloud for you, I can administer the sacraments to you, but I can’t have faith for you. Faith is a particular gift. It’s for you and you and you, and me. In our reading from Hebrews this morning we hear about particular people who received the gift of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the parents of Moses, Moses himself, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, and Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” God offers this same gift of faith to you and gives you opportunities to respond in faith. You respond in faith when you confess with your lips and your heart that Jesus is Lord. You respond in faith when you seek holiness and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You respond in faith when you pray, when you worship, when you serve the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the foreigner in the name of Jesus Christ. Continue reading
When we become disciples of Jesus Christ, one of the most important and difficult things that happens to us is that we acknowledge God’s authority over the shape of our stories. We like to fool ourselves, of course, into believing that the shape of our story is all our own, that my story does not look like anyone else’s, that I can make my story into whatever I want, so that my life is unique. But all stories owe their shape to other stories. When people asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” they were really asking, “What shape do you want the story of your life to take?” And maybe you said, a firefighter, or an astronaut, or a teacher. The details—which subject you would teach, or where on the moon you would land, or how many people you would save from disaster—were unpredictable, but the story you wanted for your life already had a basic shape to it. I’m guessing most of us stopped thinking about the shape of our stories a long time ago, but not all childish things are meant to be put away. Continue reading