Loss, Lament, and Becoming a Faithful Ancestor
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things
not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. -Hebrews 11:1-2
In the Greek text of Hebrews 11, as across the New Testament, the word “faith” is pístis, better translated: trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness. I have been realizing one of the problems of focusing on ancestors is a problem of nostalgia, of looking backwards to a better time and getting stuck in being unable to change or revive that past. Faithful ancestors, though, were folks who looked forward, assured of things hoped for. They are worth remembering because they led us to where we are, and if we are going to honor them, we need to lead for the next generation.
We are called to be people who adapt to a changing world, rather than people who simply mourn what has been lost. Faithful lament is rooted in our acknowledgement that we had once tasted and seen the Kin-dom coming, and that the person, institution, or relationship that revealed it to us is no longer with us. This lament carries a mantle to be placed on our shoulders, as the next ancestors of a generation yet to be revealed.
And let there be no mistake, things are going to get much more difficult in the months ahead. As we are leaving Daylight Savings Time, we also will feel more darkness, more coldness, and more isolation this winter than perhaps ever before. The political conflict in our nation may lead to actual violence in our communities, and the real economic disparities are already leading to expanded suffering in our city. We must be people of action, not people of the status quo. If we do not claim a faithful path forward, we will become forgotten ancestors in this time of great need.
So the real question is, what is the legacy we are trying to continue? What kinds of support, education, relationships, and opportunities to serve are we committed to creating? What kinds of ministries does our community hunger for? What do we hunger for, and how will we use this time to organize ourselves to be a congregation that sets the table for God’s abundant feast?
As Hebrews 12:1-2 puts it, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the [distractions] 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 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."
In Solidarity and With Love,