Inspired by Hebrews 1:1-4
I hope your time in the Psalms over the past few weeks was meaningful. Today, we begin a five-week series in the book of Hebrews, which is actually a letter. The entire letter is separated into thirteen short chapters and we will get a sampling from five of those thirteen chapters and I want to first give you a birds-eye view of what you can expect over these five Sundays.
And for those of you who are following the daily readings found in your bulletin insert, as well as on Facebook, you will end up reading most if not all the parts that we will be skipping between Sunday readings. So, let me first tell you a little bit about the letter because many of you might not be that familiar with it and most of you probably have not heard sermons on it. This letter really is a love letter, because the author is simply in love with this Jesus, and can’t say enough good things!
Jesus is just the best thing since sliced bread! And here’s why that’s important. We don’t know exactly who this letter was written to, some say Rome, others say it was directed at Jewish Christians, but when you read between the lines, what seems clear is that whoever it was written to, it was written to a group of people that were suffering from apathy. They had lost their fire for the gospel, for the good news that is Jesus. As theologian Craig Koester puts it, it was a group of Christians that weren’t firing on all cylinders anymore. Apathy might be the single worst enemy of any church, not bad theology, not bad pastors or members, not a bad location, not an aging membership, not music selections, not which instruments we use, not bulletins, not how we spend our money…apathy.
And for this particular author, the tactic that is used to battle that apathy, is to help them fall in love with Jesus once again. If they didn’t have that, if we, don’t have that, then all this other stuff that we do is meaningless, and we’ll just find ourselves treading water like they were. So, a return to the basics of what makes Jesus so amazing was in order, that’s what this author was betting on to snap them out of their apathy. And of course, apathy isn’t just a church issue, it’s an enemy of any organization, as well as any relationship. Apathy is the enemy of marriages, of parent/child relationships, of friends, of employees and employers; anytime you lose that fire, anytime you lose sight of what first made you see the amazingness of someone, the relationship hurts, sometimes to the point of apathy, when you’re just indifferent to whether the relationship fails or succeeds.
As far as the church goes, I have had to battle this my whole life. The church has given me reason after reason after reason to not care anymore, to just give up, to spend my time and effort elsewhere, to just walk away. And as a person of color in the whitest denomination in America, the racism and prejudiced attitudes that I have had to endure, especially in my short five years as a pastor, would be enough to allow me to walk away guilt-free. But I have a feeling we all have stories of times when we were tempted to walk away from this. So, let me take this moment to say thank you, thank you for being here.
I’m sure we all have different reasons, multiple reasons for sticking with it, and I encourage you to share that with one another sometime, maybe after worship today in Fellowship Hall. For me, in spite of the pain that the church has caused me, it has also been a blessing because it nurtured and developed something in me that has allowed me to remain—and that’s this infatuation, this sheer awe that I have in the character of Jesus; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; the cosmic nature of Jesus, the humanity of Jesus—Jesus. That is what keeps me on this journey day in and day out. Not the Bible, not some doctrine, not Martin Luther, not some political stance, just my fascination, and love of Jesus. It’s kind of ironic that the same institution that makes me want to pull my beard hairs out, has also instilled what is needed to stay the course.
So, over the next five Sundays, our author will give us five reasons why this Jesus is so darn amazing. And they are: Jesus’ eternal nature, Jesus’ humanity, Jesus’ accessibility, Jesus as Key, and Jesus’ faithfulness. That is our game plan as of right now. As always though, the Holy Spirit might throw me a curveball at any moment. She has a habit of doing that, but right now that’s the path it looks like we will be taking. So, each Sunday we will be asking, “How is Jesus so amazing?”
Now, theologians have had lots of different opinions on who and what Jesus of Nazareth was, and you certainly can too, but what’s important to understanding this particular letter, is that this author believed that Christ was eternal. And that was the number one reason that made Jesus so amazing. Now, why is this so important?
I have a feeling that whoever wrote this letter, and we don’t know who did, but whoever did, knew the value of long-term relationships, whether it’s a marriage, friendship, mentor, whatever. There is something to be said about walking with someone for a long period of time, sharing a history with someone, maybe over a lifetime, and this author knew the power in that; and so, highlighted that aspect of Christ’s relationship with not just us, but the whole world, and not just now, but since the beginning of time, and not just through today but through eternity.
Raise your hand if you know, first hand, the benefits of having a long-term relationship of some kind. I know some of you have told me that you are still close with childhood friends from seventy years ago! Now, why is this important? What makes long-term relationships so special? Well, because you know each other better than anyone! Which means, you’ve not only seen the best of them, but also the worst of them, and yet, here you are, still in relationship with one another, still by each other’s side. They’ve seen you at your worst and have not given up on you! What more can you ask for in any kind of relationship? That is the ultimate in commitment, right?
Well, that’s easy for us to say when we only have to put up with each other for one lifetime. How about for eternity? That wouldn’t be so easy. Who could be up for such a task? Our author says, “Ooh, ooh, I know! I know! Jesus!” For our author, Christ’s amazingness stems from the longevity of Christ’s relationship with us and the whole cosmos from the beginning of time til the end of time, and not because of that superhuman ability but because of what it implies—that through all eternity Christ has seen us at our best, and at our worst, and still has not given up on us, has not left our side. That is the beautiful foundation that this love letter is going to spring from, and it’s the foundation that can keep us coming back for more, again and again, transforming our apathy into a renewed, fiery, passion. And that’s just reason number one of five! Thanks be to God. Amen.