Letter to the Hebrews

OK, it’s been a few weeks since I posted. I am behind in my posts. I will be catching up soon, but no promises…

I’ll continue to be honest and straightforward… the blog post for the Letter to the Hebrews has been a difficult one for me to write. Here’s why:
The timing of when reading Hebrews fell in our schedule (October 29 through November 2) was personally a busy time with a lot of kids’ activities. Something had to give in my schedule. It was the blog.
The fever pitch of the election cycle was deafening and I have been trying to make sense of what is going on in our wider culture. What is obvious to some is not obvious to all. Our divisions in how we, as Christians and as Americans, see the world run deep. A pastoral word is needed. Written words tend to last longer than spoken ones, so I wanted the written word to be healing and hopeful.
Once my momentum for getting with words on the screen has slowed, it has been difficult to get moving again. Playing “catch up” is often harder than it seems. It would be easy to give up and move on to something else, but that’s not what I want to do or model.
I have written and re-written the blog for The Letter to the Hebrews several times — and I mean several. I have become extremely proficient at using the “Copy All + Delete” process. I hope this one lasts to be posted.

So, flow — from reading Leviticus to Hebrews is where I last left you…

The Letter to the Hebrews stands in sharp contrast to the Book of Leviticus. While Leviticus seeks to establish paths humans can follow to encounter the holiness of God, Hebrews proclaims that a) Christ is superior to the prophets, angels, and Moses, b) Christ’s priesthood is superior to the levitical priesthood and c) Christ’s sacrifice is superior to the animal sacrifices offered on earth. In these sermons within the larger sermon/exhortation that is the whole letter, the unknown author of Hebrews proclaims that Christ is all you need to gain access to God.

All you need is Christ to gain access to God is an amazing and simple message that is at the heart of Hebrews. The Letter is addressed to people who were likely steeped in Christian thought and belief, maybe young adult children whose parents were the earliest Christians. The first generation blazes the trail. The second generation seeks to find their own identity in the mission and sometimes they get lost, slow down, get distracted. They need a little encouragement to keep going.

Also a part of the underlying message in Hebrews is discovering what part of the Jewish tradition to maintain or reject. For the early church — throughout Acts and many of Paul’s letters — this was a critical issue: do you need to become Jewish in order to become a Christian? Why or why not? Continuing today, in order to be a Christian, what traditions must you follow to be faithful or accepted? What doctrines or other Church teachings must you believe?

Long established faith groups (aka denominations and others) have their sets of doctrine, creeds, and other statements of faith that must be agreed to and followed in order to maintain good standing in those traditions. As many are discovering, many of those doctrines stand in direct contrast to the encouragement of Hebrews — all you need is Christ to gain access to God — because in the eyes of the tradition, these creeds, doctrines, and faith statements are how we (they) are to gain access to God, God’s grace, and redemptive love, not Christ alone.

As a life-long member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I love, respect, find meaning and inspiration from folks who are a part of those faith groups. They offer perspective and history of thought that we Disciples — who profess “No Creed but Christ, no book but the Bible” — don’t often share. Yet, we work side by side and walk hand in hand with our brothers and sisters in Christian love.

Above, I said that what is obvious to some is not to all. Hebrews central message is that all we need is Christ to gain access to God. True, but we will still have our traditions and “this is the way we do things here” mentality. Sometimes, they will become barriers for people to access our community. We need to encourage one another to embody the idea our faith proclaims that all you need is Christ. We will fall short of meeting that expectation. We will miss the mark for which we aim. But we are not to give up.

Toward the end of Hebrews, the author lists the great “cloud of witnesses” of the faith who have embodied and exemplified a living faith we now know through Jesus who is the “pioneer and perfecter” of our faith in God. Let us encourage one another on this faith journey, for we, too, need encouragement and inspiration and exhortation to run the race so that those who follow will find us faithful and they will find the strength and courage to be faithful too.