Grace and Peace to you, Dear Church,
From God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen
I usually begin my sermons with; an image such as grilled cheese and tomato soup, chicken sandwiches, Ohio State Football, a personal story siting the many times my husband Derrick has bested me at being a human being, or a historical story about my favorite era the WWII era. I do this to try to capture your imagination and to make the scripture come alive in your hearts of faith. Well… I tried that this week. Really, I did. But it just wasn’t working.
The truth is, these verses, from the book of Hebrews are my life verses. Over twenty years ago Hebrews 10:23-25 moved into my heart and made it’s home there. These verses are the reason I love Christ’s Church and will never give up on her. These verses are what keep me going as a leader in Christ's Church when it seems everything is going bonkers in the world and in the church .
If I could pick one verse to keep me going in life it would be Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for God who has promised is faithful.”
If I could pick one verse for all of humanity to know and live out it would be Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.”
And if I could pick one verse for the church, this church and the church universal it would be Hebrews 10:25 “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
These are the three verses that I hope and pray I have modeled for you in thought, word, and deed these past four years of mission and ministry together.
The book of Hebrews may first have been written as a sermon and later adapted into an epistle or letter. The book of Hebrews (contrary to its name) is not about Judaism and Christianity. Hebrews is about “the Day.” “The Day of the Lord,” when Jesus will return to earth to Reign. This is the day church longs for and the day it’s mission and ministry strive for until he comes again. The book of Hebrews also reminds us of the covenants our faithful God has made. God has promised us a new Day, a better day, a better world, and a future with hope.
We read about, in the beautiful words of Hebrews, the longing of God’s people for this new Day. According to Jesper Svartvik, Visiting Professor of Jewish-Christian Relations at Boston College, “The new is better than the old because heaven is better than earthly life.“ Meaning we are continually longing for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
In these three verses we hear three encouraging commands from the writer. The first, approach God with a true heart. The second, hold fast to the confession of your hope. The third, consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. Church, these are not easy commands to keep.
God, “I confess that I (we) have not loved you with my (our) whole heart; I (we) have not loved my (our) neighbor (s) as myself (ourselves)…”. It it impossible to love God with your whole heart. For to love God with your whole heart leaves room for nothing else, except your neighbor.
In this world of devastation and doubt it’s difficult to hold on to hope. When it seems everything is falling apart; when families are grieving, when the future is uncertain, and when nothing seems to be going according to plan, hope is nowhere to be found. And the word, “provoke?” That’s almost laughable. “Provoke,” is not at all what comes to mind when we think of love and good deeds. The word, “provoke” is usually reserved for negative behavior such as, anger, frustration, and fighting. Church, we’re all too familiar with that kind of provoking…
How on earth will we be ever be able to keep these commands?
The answer, of course, is Jesus. Jesus is our sacrifice. Jesus is our salvation. Jesus is our sanctuary. And Jesus is our certainty. He sacrificed for us, God’s people. His salvation allows us to stand in the presence of God in this life and the next. He is the one we can hope in. He is the one we can be confident in. He is the reason we worship and praise. The Holy Spirit may gather us here but Jesus is the one who saves.
Dear church, never give up. Love God and love one another. Continue to meet together in the name of Jesus for God is present and active both here and in your hearts of faith. You have a future with hope. Amen.