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Daily Devotional • January 5

Emily Hylden
Miracles and Catastrophes
A Reading from Hebrews 11:32-12:2

32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and holes in the ground.

39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of 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.

There were indeed some impressive characters in the annals of Judeo-Christian history, and since the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, there was St. Nicholas of Myra, and the Cappadocian Fathers, and there was Macrina, and Felicitas, and St. Anthony, and Julian of Norwich, and Mother Teresa — what a great cloud of witnesses. 

Among all those thousands of years before and since the coming of Christ, there were also countless others who were unnamed and faithful in less-famous ways. I wonder if it’s not that God doesn’t do the miracles of closing lions’ mouths or quenching raging fire “these days,” but that our expectations of how great our faith is and how often God must act in these dramatic ways is a bit inflated. 

That’s one of the things I love about this passage; the list of these saints’ stories include both those miraculous endings as well as catastrophic calls. Sometimes things end with reunion and redemption on this side of the grave, and sometimes the suffering (for truth!) continues till judgment day. Either way, God promises to be right next to us, and either way we are called to be faithful to the God who is made known in Jesus Christ. And not only is God in Jesus Christ with us in the darkness, in the frenzy, in the still silence, but we are always surrounded too, by that great cloud of witnesses who have come before us, who are the body of Christ. 

The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Dallas, Texas
The Diocese of Eastern Oregon
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