Devotion - August 17, 2019

Hebrews 12:1-2

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 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. Reflection by Janet Derby I love the image of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. I have many people in my life to thank for the faith that is a part of me and the idea that they still are present to encourage me is a comfort. This week, I listened to an interview with Amichai Lau-Lavie, a rabbi and the founding director of an organization called Storahtelling, which uses theater arts to tell the stories from Jewish texts. One of his comments resonated with me. This is what he said.  

I would say what initially kept me tethered in a holy way was storytelling and the understanding that while I might not sign up for the religious practice and for the faith in a God and in a legal religious system as is, I was attached and mesmerized by the body of storytelling and by the tradition of storytelling, whether it’s the Talmud or the midrash, the Jewish legends, or the Kabbalistic tales. And being in a situation where I’d sit around a table with a bunch of people, and we’d open one of the books, and we’d talk about any of the stories — Jacob wrestling, or you have it — and then the permission to use the storytelling as a pretext and as a context for our own text, for our own lives, was mesmerizing.

I realized that at some point in my late teens, and that the knowledge that I’m part of this relay race, of this lineage of people who for thousands of years are contemplating and interpreting the text, and that I, too, am invited and permitted to continue the interpretation on the margins that then become the text. 

This is why we continue to read our sacred text, discuss it and yes, wrestle with it. It’s how God is still speaking to us and through us. It is why we gave Bibles to our third graders last Sunday, as is traditional at Pilgrimage. Those faithful people who gave us the Scriptures are a part of our cloud of witnesses just as those in our lives who shared those stories with us.


Creating God, Thank you for all the stories of you and your people which have been passed to us so that we can learn and understand the mysteries of life. Thank you also for those who have and do share those stories. Help us to continue to listen for your word. Amen.

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