Look to Hebrews 12 for faith, love and strength


“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your knees. Don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet!” (Hebrews 12:12). “Help each other out. And run for it! Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity” (The Message).

It turns out the letter to Hebrews was written to a people who were making their religion too complicated. They forgot they were simply called to follow Jesus by living as he did and as he taught, not make up a new “to do” list based on their own ideas. In fact, the folks the letter was written for weren’t doing much of anything in regard to helping people and working to make people’s lives better. They were too busy thinking up new requirements for who would be allowed to enter into the kingdom, which wasn’t their job at all. They needed get back to the basics of doing what Jesus taught. Hebrews was a call to action.

Twice in my career I have had the privilege of being in the company of the Vietnamese monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. The first time was in a lecture hall at UC Berkeley where the quiet Buddhist monk invited all of us in the audience to join him in a simple meditation of thankfulness. We were to put our hand over our heart and silently offer thanks to that organ for all of the beats it had given us so far in our lives. We were to remain with our hands hovering over our hearts and continue to think thankful thoughts for the life it had allowed us to have. I don’t know how long this went on, but he encouraged us to be patient and wait until we felt our heart smile with appreciation of our gratitude. There were hundreds of people in the auditorium that night silently thanking their hearts. Hopefully there were just as many smiling hearts. It was an experience I will never forget.

Last month I had a total knee replacement. Due to my doctor’s scheduling and the severity of my knee pain, the surgery came up several months sooner than I was expecting. I was nervous, but it had to be done. As the day of surgery got closer, it occurred to me to do the thankful meditation for my knee. I put my hands over and around it and thanked it for it’s service to me for over 70 years. For all the sports I played as a youth, for the times I was raising and playing with my children and in recent years my grandchildren. I thanked my knee for all the hiking and all the miles I have walked with friends, family and dogs. I was patient and waited. The response was very weak, but I felt it’s feeble smile. Five weeks have past, and I now realize the pain of rehabilitation exercises have obscured the gratitude I should be giving this new fully functional knee, but I am starting to offer it praise. I am also grateful for the technology and skills of surgeons who can provide such miraculous solutions to get me and so many people back on bicycles, golf courses and on the hiking trails.

Eugene Peterson says, “There’s some evidence that the people to whom the book of Hebrews was first addressed were caught up in a lot of fanciful speculation about religion. They thought they were being profound, but their religion was disconnected from anything that real people did in their daily lives, such as fixing meals, facing failure, helping neighbors, raising children, going to work.” In essence the writer of Hebrews is saying, “Don’t give me your lofty thoughts or ideas about God, or who is saved or not. Stop sitting on your hands and get busy. I want to see your love of God in action every day in personal relationships with people who need your help.”

Over these last five weeks I have had to submit myself to the very basics of living and getting around. People have prayed for my recovery and healing. Neighbors, friends and family helped me with my meals, rides to physical therapy and putting on elastic TED hose. They have encouraged me to do the work necessary to get this knee up and running. I am grateful to them all. I was looking for scripture with the word knees in it, but what I found in Hebrews 12 was faith, love and strength that describe what I have been receiving and what I need to do.

Rev. Patricia Stout is a retired Presbyterian minister and a substitute teacher in Delaware County.

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