Sunday, 9 December 2018

Continual Praise - Hebrews 13:1 - 16

Recall last week considered the journey up the mountain, to the heavenly city in reverence and not fear. This week we continue on up in worship. Yet we can't worship without it changing us, for example our attitude to others. Hence the call to love others, to show hospitality even to strangers, and identify with the prisoner. We cannot truly worship without it affecting our life, how we are with others, and this becoming action. That's why we have the slogan Seeking to Worship, Seeking to Serve. The two go together: our worship leads us to serve, and we cannot go on serving without ongoing worship.

Living a life of worship will affect the core of who we are, the fundamentals of how we live. The author picks two areas as examples: marriage and money. Honour marriage and keep it pure. In our culture that is surely a call to not give up on relationship easily. The author picks this because marriage images God and His covenant relationship with us. The stability of marriage gives a picture of the stability of God and His desire for His people. Our society is ditch n switch - be it broadband, utility, insurance or whatever. I hear people say 'well that mobile was no good anyway', when just a year ago they were raving about it! How easily do we effectively re-write history to suit our current outlook? The author quotes Deuteronomy 31:6, hyperlinking to chapter 31 which is all about God's covenant faithfulness even to the heart-hearted Israel!

The second example of money is about contentment and trust - in God who will provide. We should remember that money only ever has artificial value, it is all based on assumptions with only the continuing economy (which can be fickle) to underpin it. On the contrary God is trustworthy. The author quotes psalm 118 where God is the poet's support against all the odds.

So our worship leads us to image God's faithfulness and trust in His provision for life. In worship you will want to imitate what is good. V7 the author suggests looking to Godly leaders. The best leaders of course lead by example, and ultimately our greatest example is Jesus.

This whole letter has been all about Jesus - from start to finish it keeps rehearsing His superiority. Remember that through the letter the author has been comparing aspects of the Jewish faith and showing Jesus in each case to be superior. Here in v9 the author does it again, going back to ceremony, the special altar, and sacrifice - themes explored earlier in the letter. In summary the author asserts that whatever ceremonies you had, whatever special holy places, whatever sacrifices ... all are rendered redundant in Jesus. In fact hey weren't actually able to save you in the first place, but Jesus can! This is because of what Jesus has done - in physically coming, laying down His life, being put on a cross, and rising again. It all means no more special foods, animal sacrifices etc. Now all can go to the most holy place, all can go up to join in worship.

As an aside this final section gives us some helpful thoughts on Brexit! V13-14 says 'let us go to Him outside the camp - for we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come  ...'. Jesus died as an outcast, he was crucified outside the city. As followers of Jesus we have no permanent place in any human structures of society, be it nation, conglomerate of nations, human institutions, super-powers or whatever. No - our enduring place (which will endure long after all other establishments have gone) is with the Kingdom of God. So however parliament votes this week, yes it will affect our daily living, but ultimately for us we live outside the camp - i.e. outside all these structures anyway.

The final therefore is v15 - let us offer continual praise. Let us openly acknowledge that we follow Jesus, that we are about Him, and so everything in our attitudes and actions centres on Him. The final comparison in the letter is that in the 'old' there would be a certain priest taking an offering of a sacrificed animal as a regular ritual - giving a 'spike' in spirituality at regular intervals for those involved. But now in Jesus it is for all of us, in Jesus we can continually offer praise. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, He frees us to draw near, to give ourselves over and over by living lives for Him.

Remember Seeking to Worship - Seeking to Serve. Our worship will lead to action. It will change how we are with other people, looking for the best rather than dwelling in the negative. We will be for people and for the community as we live out our worship. V16 reminds us that this is the kind of sacrifice God wants! Our Sunday gatherings are an overflow of that. Don't let Sundays just be like the old ritual - we are to be about continual praise. Yet that doesn't mean we give up on regular gathering either. Our gatherings are not ritual, yet they are also not invalid. Rather hold our gatherings as a key beat in your overall rhythm of a life of continual praise.

We do this as a responose to Jesus, because we put our lives in His. We receive Him, we fall in love with Him, and we go forward with Him.

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