Rev. Dawn M. Adams is the minister of the First Congregational Church of Brimfield (MA), UCC. She has served there since 2014. She is currently on medical leave as she had open heart surgery to repair her aortic valve. She came through surgery well and is continuing to heal as she prepares to return to work on September 11th.  Dawn is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves writing poetry, reading, gardening, and hiking.

Scripture: Hebrews 11:29-12:2  (NRSV)

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. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

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, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 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. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. 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— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and holes in the ground.

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

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, 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.
 

Reflection: Faith: inspiration and consolation

Rev. Dawn Adams
receiving a prayer shawl

Faith is not an immunization to the cruelties of the world: instead it is a balm that soothes the soul in times of trouble. I was reminded of this recently as I had major surgery (in fact, I am writing this just before it; and you are reading it just after it.).

As I prepared for surgery and began taking leave of several of my responsibilities, people would try to offer words of encouragement. In the words they offered I found an interesting and troubling theme: many people commented that I would be okay, because I did God's work. They were certain my surgery would be successful and my healing quick because “God needed me.”  Moreover, they would become distressed if I tried to talk about the possibility that I might not survive – granted our culture is death avoidant in general, but this was a deeper distress which struck for them a theological cord. I heard in their affirming comments some underlying questions: Wasn't God our protector and shield? Our ever-present help in times of trouble? If God didn't "protect" one who they perceived as faithful, a minister, then what would that mean for them?

But the truth of our faith, especially as proclaimed in our reading today, is that faithfulness is not an action which is rewarded by safety. In fact, many times quite the opposite. Faithfulness is instead the inspiration and the consolation for action no matter what else may be or come.

A concrete example of God’s abiding love in response to our faith can be seen in the prayer shawls that our church and many other churches make and distribute. Shawls are knit, prayed on, and distributed as a tactile reminder of God's love. The shawl does not prevent harm from coming to its wearer; it is not armor. It does not turn away tragedy; it is not a talisman. It does though hold the person in their time of trouble; it offers them courage; and it offers healing in ways beyond our understanding.

We do not have faith to receive protection from the ills of the world. Instead, our faith may actually propel us into those ills. But our faith reminds us that whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s and in the Lord's arms, we are ever held. As Julian of Norwich says, " All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." AMEN

 

PRAYER

Holy One,
Give us strength to act in love.
Give us courage to stand for justice.
Grow us faith so that in both we may take comfort in your abiding presence. Amen

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the over 26,000 gun violence deaths in the US this year
  • For those suffering from the wildfires and floods
  • For those who are preparing for or recovering from surgery

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For the health care workers taking care of the sick
  • For the many who knit and crochet prayer shawls to help give comfort to others

 This Week in History:

August 4, 1944 (78 years ago): Acting on tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captured 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust. [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Confucius

 
 
Starting With Scripture is a weekly devotional and prayer request of the
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Marlen Gasdia-Cochrane, Editor
cochranem@sneucc.org