The Calling and Consequence of Grace

Scriptures: Hebrews 4:12-16

Let us Pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Susan R. Andrews wrote,

“The denominational seal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is deceptively simple—with intricate symbolism folded into every spare curve. Central to its cruciform shape are the outstretched horizontal arms of an open Bible with edges porous to the mind and the imagination. Descending with power and promise is the dove of the Holy Spirit, reminding us that an open Bible is constantly being renewed by the fresh revelation of the Spirit. If we do not keep our own Bibles open, our own hearts unlocked, our own minds ready for God’s deft sword, we may miss that liberating moment when the dis-ease of our life is cut away by the healing wisdom of a living word.

For the writer of Hebrews, the word of God is ‘living and active’ – probing, slicing…refining us with a spirit and a wisdom that is fresh and alive.”[1]

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (4:12-13)

Those first two verses of today’s pericope from Hebrews are a doxological conclusion for the first eleven verses of chapter 4[2]; but at the same time they lay all bare, don’t they? Perhaps that is just as well, for all of us now and again find ourselves in places needing our “thoughts and intentions of our hearts” to be judged – not to be condemned, but to refine. In that spirit of refining, then, we move on to the last three verses of our reading, which “offer new exhortation while introducing the theme of priesthood.”[3]

This isn’t just any priesthood, however. It is not the holy priest up on high, standing in the pulpit or in the holy of holies pronouncing peace, justice, and wholeness to the people when there is no peace, no justice, no wholeness among the human family.

This is not a distant priest waving hands in some benediction and sending us on our way back into the daily grind of our lives. No, this is a priest who, as Susan Andrews writes, “suffers with us, and not just for us. In the author’s heart, [the perfection of Jesus] is not about power or purity, but about endurance…[Jesus] meets us in the places of temptation and weakness, experiencing all…”[4] that we do.

“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” (4:14-15)

Jesus, dipping down into our humanity, offers us atonement – or as Susan points out, “at – one – ment with God.”

I find it a compelling word that all of us, as followers of Jesus, are called to imitate this healing kind of solidarity with one another and our neighbors – whoever they may be. Michael Hegeman, commenting on this passage, writes:

“In our liturgy we enact corporate acts of confession of sin and profession of faith. We also experience this dual pattern in our current passage: the relationship between the Word of God and our communal and individual acts of confession and profession. The Word of God that has freed us from captivity now lays claim to us.”[5]

“Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (4:16)

Being freed and being claimed; the calling and consequence of grace. Today we celebrate with Allyson Bourke as she joins our congregation in confession and membership. Grace called her, and as she and Chris continue to build their home here, we are reminded of our own calling to this place, this church, this community of people listening for God’s word in the world. Listening, that we might hear. Hearing, that we might return to praising, lifting our own voices to God. Praising, that we might turn to living out our days discerning how best to become God’s hands and feet in the world in which we find ourselves. Then, being fully incarnate in this world as Jesus was, going out and living out what we have discerned.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

How do you talk to God when you feel that God is not listening? How can you be a better disciple, considering the radical words of Jesus in Mark that you have to sell all you own, give the money to the poor, and then follow him?

Household Prayer: Morning

As I open my eyes, I want to feel your Word, living and active and guiding my way. I want to live knowing that what is impossible for me is possible for you. I want to live with the certitude that those who are first will be last, and the last will be first. Give me the courage and the hope to live with your words in my mind for the rest of the day. In Jesus Christ, my teacher, I pray. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

As I lay down to rest, I look at the times in my day when my heart has felt like fainting, and I have felt like arguing, but I do so with the understanding that even in my deepest sorrow you were with me. Thank you, God, for understanding and for helping this human being who, if imperfectly, strives to seek out your face, to follow your will, and to understand your Word. Give me the rest I need to live day by day and step by step. In the name of my example and my strength, Jesus Christ. Amen.

[1] Susan R. Andrews, “Pastoral Perspective, Hebrews 4:12-16” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Harold W. Attridge, “Exegetical Perspective, Hebrews 4:12-16” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[3] Ibid.

[4] Susan R. Andrews, “Pastoral Perspective, Hebrews 4:12-16” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[5] Michael G. Hegeman, “Homiletical Perspective, Hebrews 4:12-16” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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