Saturday 28th November Hebrews – Final Words
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them. We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.
Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things. I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.
Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.
The beginning of this chapter uses known stories as a reminder to people to live in and with love for others. Reminders of Abraham and Sarah, reminders of Jesus teaching the disciples and I, like many of you, have hosted strangers and walked with those who are in prison, both actual prison buildings and imprisonment by substance issues, health, disability, abuse, homelessness etc.
I get stuck when we are asked to remember our leaders and imitate their faith (I paraphrase). I get stuck because it feels like we ask more of our leaders than we do of ourselves, we hold them in a way that doesn’t allow for mistakes. Faith leaders are no less sinful than everyone else. Leaders may promise to live holy lives, but shouldn’t all people of faith promise the same? But it doesn’t mean we will be sinless all the time.
The great pearl in this chapter, for me, is the reminder that Jesus is unchanging, and we are strengthened by Grace. Surely, that is the bit we need to go out and share, the bit that is our Good News! Jesus is unchanging and offers us Life through Grace! And the best bit is it doesn’t have to be words, it simply needs to be through non-judgemental openness and kindness. Practicing the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of it.
So I dare you today to greet every person; friend, stranger, by-passer on the street with non-judgemental openness…give it a go. When you notice yourself thinking something judgemental, unkind, or holding your bag, phone etc tighter, remember that those are the people Jesus would have been hanging with, those are the folks that Jesus was trying to get us to see as God’s children too.
Unchanging God, help us to live by the Spirit of the law, not the letter of it.
Enable us to hear your voice pricking our conscience when we judge others by rules we don’t hold ourselves to.
Breathe your loving kindness into and through us to others daily.