Epistle: Hebrews:1-4, 2:5-12
Dear Spirit, inspire the hearts of all gathered here this day with your presence and your wisdom; may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
What is the core purpose of being Christian? What is at the root of our faith? Do we really have a piece of divine spirit embedded in our souls? If we do, how should that impact what we do with our lives? The letter to the Hebrews begins to address some of this; it begins by framing Jesus as the pinnacle of salvation history, the very Word of God spoken.
James W. Thompson, writes, “in these poetic lines … filled with alliteration and assonance, the author declares that God has spoken in these last days “by a son….” The author of Hebrews has a very clear vision of Christ’s purpose and meaning, he is our great high priest, who has made atonement for us once and for all. The exhortation, then, is to remain faithful to the way of love. Thompson concludes that Hebrews is written to “encourage the community to remain faithful in the context of lethargy and discouragement that threatens the community’s existence.”
And what has God spoken by his son? Christians (and let me define what I mean by the term Christian: those who place our very lives in the hands of Jesus Christ and say, “I am yours, let me be an instrument of your peace, love, and mercy in this world”); Christians possess first and foremost a salvation in Jesus Christ which surpasses all other identifiers we may attach to ourselves throughout our lives.
In my somewhat theologically sheltered background growing up, I often wondered, why do we need saving in the first place if we are already made in God’s image? Being made in God’s image, aren’t we all perfect? Why the big deal about all this sin and stuff-besides, Jesus took care of that, didn’t he? Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus had to be the sin offering for all of us, yes. Implicit in that understanding is that we are not perfect, we are sinful beings. Which brings me to the unlovely place where I must look at myself and say, what in me is sin?
Where I currently live in my theological journey, I kind-of have begun to answer that. Even though our bodies are temples of that divine spark residing in our souls, we are yet fully human beings, living on this earth in this moment; created beings with the breath of life in us and, being made in God’s image, gifted with the ability to create, even as God creates. However, Calvinist theology tells us we are all broken, imperfect beings, not yet made fully whole. How can we put those two together and make sense of them?
We have been gifted with powers beyond the running of deer, the hunting of the hawk, the tending of the ant, the building of the termite, … and the destruction of the woodpecker. When we exercise our powers as the brilliant human beings that we are, the temptation is to glory in our ability, constantly pushing the limits of our scientific and technological world. Think of atomic energy – nuclear energy – cellular energy: this is a power indeed. Sin, then, is this: taking such power and turning it to our own ends, not for the good of all creation.
Basically, it is inherent selfishness as opposed to the humble self-less-ness of the Holy One. In a nutshell, salvation history is about our corporate falling from self-less-ness into self-ish-ness, with the consequence that Jesus had to come and redeem human kind with his sacrificially salvific life.
What is our response? Saved by Christ, who made atonement for us all, we begin to understand we are once more gifted with the ability to choose God’s purpose for us: that of co-creating, tending God’s creation, and using our powerful gifts for good.
So that was a complex theological lens from which to view what the letter to the Hebrews is trying to lay out for its readers, and by proxy, us today. At the same time, Hebrews seems to bring out an element of youthful passion…proclaiming a Jesus on fire with the ideology of the young, the zeal of the Lord of Hosts for an authentic living, a call and response of the faithful life.
The witness of an authentic faith is a filling up of our cup; brilliant “Ah-ha” moments in the midst of the everyday. Commentator Susan Andrews says the Jesus unveiled by the book of Hebrews is “a paradoxical savior” whom embodies “the authenticity of human life and the authenticity of divine love wrapped up in incarnational reality.”
Something of God, wrapped up in human flesh, living, walking, breathing upon this earth…and so close to being graspable- Susan continues, “Jesus is the real thing—the authentic pioneer of God-drenched living, reflecting the glory of God in the flesh-and-blood experiences of earthly life.”
Ah, yes, Lord, you did walk the road of humanity with us, and you told us we, too, can grow toward your perfection if we travel your way, the “way of love that gives up life in order to offer life to all.”
Susan goes on to explain, “in this Hebrews text, as in so much of the New Testament, “perfection” does not mean an excellence out of reach of ordinary human experience. Perfection, in a gospel sense, means “completeness” – [that is] fully carrying out the purpose for which we have been created – clearing out the clutter and corruption of our living so that the “imprint of God’s very being,” which is in each one of us, can be fully revealed.”
When our imprint is revealed, then we, too may find ourselves living authentic paradoxical lives, modeled after Jesus, “who embodies glory and humiliation, power and suffering, authority and servant hood, radical grace and radical obedience.”
Now, I’d like to take that and push it out a bit farther into the realm of practical application. Since we have been so touched; since we do indeed house a divine spark within these earthen vessels, then we are also empowered to reach out and touch others around us with grace, servant hood, humility, and solidarity. In stunning symmetry…the utterly majestic and cosmic God [comes down] to touch us – up close and personal. With that being done for us, it becomes ours in turn to do unto others. Let us pray:
Savior Jesus, lead us to the life you promise, lifting us up, even when we stumble, seasoning our lives with your grace and peace, in your name we pray, Amen? May it be so.
 Thompson, James W. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. David Noel Freedman, Editor-in-Chief © 2000 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., All rights reserved. Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 3.3
 Andrews, Susan A. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).