Pastor Chris Tweitmann
Most of us have felt, at some point in our lives, the anxiety and disorientation of being lost. Various circumstances, from joblessness to crippling debt, to debilitating illness to loneliness, to addiction to powerlessness to depression, can leave us with no idea where to go in our lives. It doesn’t take much for this fog of uncertainty to be soon eclipsed by a creeping sensation that every path before us is a dead-end; that we are trapped in a prison rather than lost in a maze.
When life beats us down, when our circumstances go from being bewildering to discouraging to desperate, we can be left feeling hopeless. People for whom hope has ebbed away become listless and lifeless – just going through the motions, just waiting for the other shoe to drop, just trying to avoid something worse happening. Hopelessness feeds our fear even as it starves our faith. Without hope, we are tempted to give up or to give into the darkness rather than to carry on and to keep believing, to keep reaching for the Light.
This well describes the community to whom the author of the Book of Hebrews is writing. This predominantly Jewish Christian community has born its share of suffering. They have endured persecution and hardship particularly for their witness to Christ. As a result, many are beginning to lose hope.
So far, the writer of this letter has tried to inspire them by outlining the clear superiority of Jesus Christ over every other leader they might turn to, including Moses, Joshua, and Aaron. More recently, the author has begun to explain how not just the person but also the way of Jesus is better than their former spiritual path, the sacrificial system of the Levitical priesthood. A description of Christ as our great High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” was briefly introduced but soon interrupted, as there was a sense that those receiving this letter aren’t tracking with the message.
Wanting to talk more about Jesus and Melchizedek; the writer interrupts the flow of his presentation to attempt to rally his listeners. Hopelessness has crept into their lives. Instead of moving forward, they are headed backwards. Instead of continuing to walk and grow by faith, they are running in circles and have become stunted. And so, a fervent appeal towards maturity is made. A chilling caution against turning one’s back on Jesus, ignoring or forsaking all one has received in Christ, also is given. But what appears at first to be a rebuke ends up becoming a strong word of encouragement to not lose faith but to hold onto hope in God that will be realized.
This Sunday, we will listen as the writer of Hebrews talks to us about what the very foundation of our assurance in Christ is. The theme is hope. As followers of Jesus, Christ calls us to be messengers of hope. But we can’t give away what we don’t have. In order to be a messenger of hope, we’ve got to be filled with hope ourselves. We can’t encourage somebody else to be hopeful, when we’re feeling hopeless. So then, let us gather and learn about hope that will keep us going no matter what is going on in our lives. Hope that is not found in ourselves or in our circumstances. Come let us realize the hope we have in Jesus. Hope that is eternal and therefore, hope that we can count on. Hope that endures.
Grace to you!