“…looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:2

Paolo Veneziano, -approximately 1362. Crucifixion, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57018 [retrieved August 11, 2022]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Veneziano_Crucifixion.jpg – BergererSF.

RCL Year C Proper 15 (Alternate Readings)
Jeremiah 23:23-29, Psalm 82, Hebrews 11:29–12:2, Saint Luke 12:49-56

A water glass is what the Lord presents to us today in these challenging Lessons. A water glass, I say, is what we are given. Left to us to decide is whether the water glass is half full, or whether the water glass is half empty. But, make no mistake, the Lord will be the Lord now and forever more whether we see it half full or half empty.

In the Gospel, Jesus declares that he “came to bring fire to the earth.”[1] He says that he has a baptism to undergo, a baptism whose effect will be to divide households, “three against two and two against three.”[2] Three will see the water glass as half full, and two will see the water glass as half empty and vice versa. But make no mistake, he will undergo his baptism even if some see the water glass as half empty, even if some do not perceive the blessing he will be giving.

In the reading from Jeremiah, we have a similar division. Some prophets prophesy falsely, and some prophets prophesy the word of the Lord faithfully.[3] But make no mistake, the Lord will continue to be the Lord, even if false prophets thrive, and even if they forget the Lord and go after idols. “What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord.”[4]

A similar division between the half fulls and the half empties the author of Hebrews chillingly describes. “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.”[5] Those who have faith in the Lord were saved, and those who had not faith in the Lord were not saved. But make no mistake, the Lord continues forever more to be the Lord. The Lord will save his people. The Lord will preserve the people who put their trust in him.

These Lessons strikingly put it to us that some people will see and believe, and other people will see and not believe. For some the water glass is half full, and for some others the water glass is half empty. Both groups see the same water glass. And they make very different meanings of what they see.

That water glass is the whole sweep of the Scriptures: creation, the exodus from Egypt, the manna in the wilderness, the gift of the promised land, the reminders of the true prophets that God is good and will redeem us, the restoration from the exile in Babylon, the Word becoming flesh, the miracles and teachings of Jesus, Jesus’ passion, resurrection, and ascension, the phenomenal growth of followers of Jesus—all these things, all the wondrous and marvelous things, that the Lord has done throughout providential history have been done so that we and countless other people might see and believe, that we might “[t]aste and see that the Lord is good.”[6]

I especially like the conclusion of today’s Epistle. God has done all these things so that we might “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and [that we might] run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”[7]

[1] Saint Luke 12:49.

[2] Saint Luke 12:52.

[3] Jeremiah 23:28.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hebrews 11:29.

[6] Psalm 34:8.

[7] Hebrews 12:1 and 2.