Sitting on my back screen porch this early morning, I savored my first cup of black tea and writing in my journal and reading. The green oak limbs bowed low beyond the screen, as if to shelter me in the porch. I was surprised to see evidence of a storm in the night–puddles and the debris of leaves, and a potted verbena that appeared to have taken a beating. And how wonderful that I’d slept through it all and never heard! Presently the early golden rays of sun painted the tops of the trees along the deep creek, the mourning dove called, and the birds twittered happily. The male red bird came to the feeder and flew away again. I thought of yesterday–Easter–and smiled, all warm with renewed faith and precious memories.
My reading this morning brought me to Hebrews 4:14: “Since then we have a great High Priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
That brought me to thinking how today was the day after Easter. Monday of a new week in ordinary life. Churches all over the world would be cleaning and straightening up after Easter celebrations, and church secretaries, pastors and teachers moving on to new lessons. People who had enjoyed family gatherings–I noticed a lot of cookouts in my community–got up (probably a bit downcast and bleary-eyed from wanting another day with family and to laze around) and went off to work.
Even back in the time of Jesus, when all that took place not only for that momentous weekend but weeks that followed, events that changed the world, eventually everyday Monday came. The threads of life, with all of its demands and struggles, then and now are woven daily. Even for the amazing disciples this happened. They had to get up and keep on keeping on.
And quite suddenly I was thinking of Saint Peter. Specifically of Peter’s great stumble in denying knowing Christ, denying Him three times, and then the cock crowed as predicted. Most of us know this story well, and oh, the heartbreak of it! My heart has always grieved for Peter because I so understood the failure. Who among us has not done the same in a myriad of ways? But I have been equally encouraged, because this same Peter who betrayed his Lord went on to become the rock upon which Christ Jesus built His church.
Peter was a man like any other. He had to daily face his failure, forgive himself, and go on. He experienced the risen Christ, which surely built his faith into that foundational rock, but eventually even he had to come down off the spiritual high into Monday after Monday. Even Peter had to live daily life. He had to keep on keeping on, as it were. He had to deal with his work of church-building, and all the factions, challenges, and disappointments in this, and with putting food on his family’s table, and maybe ailments such as colds or bunions, and aging, and losses of family and friends, and keeping a roof over his head and that of his family, all of this while each day facing his particular human weaknesses and failures.
No wonder there are so many urgings in the Bible to take hold of your faith. Hold on to it, which implies a certain force and the idea of gripping something precious that is in danger of slipping away.
Paul told Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”. (1 Timothy 6:12) And boy, it sure is a fight at times. In the wear and tear of normal living, you have to remind yourself of your faith. You must remember either when you first believed, or the steps that brought you to faith, the times you felt the truth in your heart, and the miracles you have experienced from that faith and because of that faith, and the dear, everyday graces, such as the sight of the sunshine and the wagging tail of a dog, the phone call from a loved one and the wonderful first sip of good tea. And the precious truths of the Word of God.
Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need.”
That is firm instruction to help us everyday people keep on keeping on in faith.